After the New York Mets picked up David Wright's $16 million club option for 2013 earlier this week, the club is officially on the clock. The Mets have exactly one year of control left to lock down the face of their franchise. In essence, Wright is to the team what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees or Chipper Jones was to the Atlanta Braves.
However, Wright’s long-term future in New York is hardly guaranteed.
First, discussions between Wright’s agents -- Sam and Seth Levinson -- and the Mets have been slow and grinding. Most negotiations with this team usually plod along, but the Mets also have shown the same cavalier attitude they demonstrated in the failed Jose Reyes negotiations in 2011. Not a good sign.
Second, for those who think the Mets won’t let the face of the franchise walk away, remember that current Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is the one who said goodbye to future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman while in San Diego. Alderson also allowed then-Padres manager Bruce Bochy to depart for the NL West rival San Francisco Giants, where he would go on to win two World Series titles. In 1992, Alderson also traded Jose Canseco to the Texas Rangers in a blockbuster that was headlined by Ruben Sierra. Arguably the best trade of Alderson’s career might end up being the swap of All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants at the July 2011 trade deadline for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who should join the Mets’ starting rotation in 2013.
Needless to say, Alderson isn't afraid to trade star players.
That said, I still think the Mets and Wright will have a news conference sometime between now and the winter meetings next month in Nashville, Tenn., to announce a seven-year extension in the range of $18 million per season. If the Mets aren’t willing to commit, they don’t need to worry because most other teams will be. To trade Wright, the assignee club would have to ask for a window to sign him first because no team will fork over top prospects to the Mets without the assurance that Wright will sign a long-term deal.
Just in case the negotiations fall apart with the Mets, here are five trade partners that would make sense for Alderson.
The Red Sox have money off the books after trading Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August. Wright’s swing would be ideal for Fenway Park, and he would instantly change the culture with his leadership ability. He would give the Red Sox a new, fresh franchise face to go with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. The discussion by Alderson would have to start with young third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks and one of Boston's top starting pitching prospects, such as Allen Webster, who recently was acquired from the Dodgers, or Matt Barnes, the Red Sox’s first-round selection in 2011 out of the University of Connecticut.
This conversation would have to commence with top first-base prospect C.J. Cron, a middle-of-the-lineup bat who was the Angels’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft out of the University of Utah. Cron possesses incredible power and has a chance to be an impact bat with the ability to drive in 100 runs. The second player in the deal would have to be fleet-footed outfielder Peter Bourjos, who became expendable with the emergence of Mike Trout. Bourjos has Gold Glove defensive ability with special range. However, how much he’s going to hit is still debatable. Of course, with a deal like this, the Mets would then have to try to trade incumbent first baseman Ike Davis for another need.
The Diamondbacks have tremendous depth in young starting pitchers. The roll call is impressive: Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley and Ian Kennedy. Therefore, they might be willing to make former No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer available for Wright, especially given that some of the Arizona field staff is frustrated with Bauer’s stubbornness and work plan.
Bauer has struggled with his command and control in the zone, and it might take time before he reaches his full, unlimited potential. To acquire an arm of this caliber and team it with Matt Harvey and Wheeler would establish an impressive young rotation capable of competing with the Washington Nationals’ elite young starters. The Mets should ask for a second player, as well, possibly center fielder Adam Eaton, a player who’s not blessed with special tools but can hit and really play the game with blue-collar grittiness.
The Royals could use a veteran leader in the clubhouse to develop all of their great young players such as Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Wright would bring them that leadership. Alderson could start the conversation asking for young third baseman Mike Moustakas, who could give the Mets a minimum of 20 home runs and 80 RBIs at third base for minimal cost.
However, a second player in the deal would be the key. Although Kansas City can’t afford to trade any of its top young pitching prospects or top position prospect Wil Myers (unless it was getting front-line pitching back), the Royals might be willing to include Cheslor Cuthbert or 2010 first-rounder Christian Colon to make a deal like this. However, given that the Royals’ only real need is starting pitching, it is doubtful they would want to spend this type of money -- or trade this kind of talent -- on anything but starting pitching.
I know this does not look like a fit because the Rangers already have the best overall third baseman in baseball in Adrian Beltre. However, if Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli leave in free agency, Texas will have to add another impact bat for the middle of its lineup. The Rangers have never been afraid to ask players to change positions -- just ask Michael Young -- so it’s probably worth making the phone call to see whether they would consider a Mike Olt, Derek Holland and Craig Gentry type of deal for Wright. Olt would solve third base; Holland would improve the rotation; and Gentry would give them a tremendous defensive center fielder with blazing speed and a bat that is still developing.
To be sure, the possibility of any of these five trade ideas actually coming to fruition is slim. Indeed, 98 percent of all deals that are discussed are never made, but the Mets must do their due diligence and Alderson must do himself that favor and explore all possibilities to maximize Wright’s value and price tag. If Wright’s value is highest by returning to the Mets -- and I think he'll re-sign when all is said and done -- you can count on that price tag to be in the neighborhood of seven years and $126 million.
And for Mets fans, who can’t stand the thought of the face of their favorite franchise in another uniform, that’s a bargain.