Let’s start this article by saying that if David Wright were ever to be traded away at some point during his extension, I do believe that Mets fans might riot in the middle of Citi Field. So this article will assume, and that is a crazy word, that Wright will live out his remaining contract and retire a Met for life. So why does that make him the last franchise player ever? Because he took a pay cut.
During the Winter Meetings several analysts and general managers were asked the question, “What would David Wright have commanded had he been a free agent this year?” The answers varied slightly but the general consensus was that Wright, being the dominant third baseman in a market devoid of major competition and having played extremely well over his career, would have received a contract offer in the neighborhood of $180 to $200 million. Meanwhile, from his last contract Wright was supposed to earn $16 million in 2013, but he had the payout reduced to $11 million, with $3 million to be deferred, which gave the Mets an extra $8 million to play with last year. They didn’t do anything with that money, but still. Theoretically then, Wright’s salary could have doubled from 2013 to 2014 had he went the free agent route.
Wright’s current contract also includes deferred money, $15.5 million of it, without interest. And he won’t receive all of the money until 2025. Do we all understand just how rare his team-friendly contract is nowadays? To put it in a little bit of perspective, two guys who made more than Wright last year; Kevin Youkilis and Dan Uggla. Even hurt, and while taking a pay cut, David Wright was head and shoulders above either of those players in production. What he does for this organization both on the field and off is quite unusual.
The more usual interaction is that players want to get paid. Or more accurately, agents want to get paid. We are living in the Scott Boras era where Shin Soo Choo turns down 7 years, $140 million from the Yankees because Boras thinks Choo should get $1.857 million more a year and have “Ellsbury money.” Do you honestly think Shin Soo Choo wanted to turn down $140 million? Players are also encouraged by the Player’s Association to take the largest offer they can get, because it increases the overall market. Chris Young can get $7.25 million for 1-year because guys like Robinson Cano sign for 10-years $240 million. It’s a domino effect, and it’s the reason it’s so rare for an All-Star like Wright to take below-market money to stay with a current team.
It’s not wrong that players take the money that is offered to them, mind you. They are, after all, property that can be traded and sold regardless of the player’s personal needs. Prince Fielder is probably glad he took every dime the Detroit Tigers offered him now that he’s been traded after only two seasons. Jose Reyes probably feels similar. These contracts are often a burden on a team’s finances, but it is part of the game. Sure teams are finding greater success using sabermetrics to find low-cost alternatives, but if you want a guy like Cano who can put up career numbers .309/.355/.504 with an average of 24 homers and 97 RBI at 2B, you are going to pay out the nose for the later years when he hits .257/.309/.410.
The New York Mets are lucky in a lot of ways to have David Wright. He plays a demanding position, and puts up excellent stats nearly every year. His stature in Mets history was already cemented before he signed his extension. He still decided to go the less traveled route, though. The one Albert Pujols didn’t go down two years ago. Wright would rather be remembered as the greatest Met of all time, than take more money to play in Boston, or Los Angeles, or Cleveland. It’s a rare thing to see in today’s game, and we should count our blessings we get to see it.