David Wright is the last franchise player ever

David WrightLet’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.

9 comments for “David Wright is the last franchise player ever

  1. December 24, 2013 at 10:38 am

    The timeline as to when Choo declined the money is important. Was it after the Yankees had signed Ellsbury or before? If it’s before then I would of told Boras that he would have to give me the difference if I have to sign for less. Boras had Ellsbury lined up for New York for more money(and a bigger paycheck for himself). I seem to recall Longoria in Tampa doing the same as Wright. But we both know they are the exceptions. Wright shouldn’t be surprised the team did not spend the money he left on the table. All he did was allow the Wilpons to stay in control of the team.

  2. Metsense
    December 24, 2013 at 10:51 am

    “The New York Mets are lucky in a lot of ways to have David Wright …and we should count our blessings”

    And so, as Tiny Tim said, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!” Author: Charles Dickens

  3. Patrick Albanesius
    December 24, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Excellent point Pete. The only major difference I see between the Longoria contract and Wright’s is that New York can pay to keep David in New York even if his production goes down toward the end of the deal. Tampa can’t.

  4. Name
    December 24, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t think these players are as rare as you think. Off the top of my head: Braun, Longoria, Zimmerman, Pedroia, Jeter, Tulo, Cain, Posey all signed below average contracts at the time of their signing.

    Guys like Verlander, King Felix, Matt Kemp, Vernon Wells, Andrus, Wainwright, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels signed with their original teams, although at market or above market price.

    There are also a bunch of guys who don’t get the opportunity to become franchise players because the organization feels it is worth more to trade them and get the prospect or they simply don’t have the means to sign them. Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Miguel Cabrera, Johan Santana, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford*(wasn’t traded but obvious weren’t going to be resigned by Tampa), Choo, Texiera, Alfonso Soriano, Matt Holliday

    In the end, the guys who could have stayed and whose team had the resources to sign are Cano, Pujols, Fielder(debatable I guess), Ellsbury, Reyes(also debatable), Hamilton, Papelbon, Werth, Grienke. There are almost as many guys who signed below average long term deals as guys who left for the biggest buck.

    • Chris F
      December 24, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      Jared Weaver too. His 5/85 was well below market, but being a SoCal boy and being an Angel made his home town discount an easy choice.

      • Name
        December 24, 2013 at 10:44 pm

        I limited my search to 100 million plus contracts so guys like Weaver, CarGo, Ethier didn’t make the cut. I realized I forgot to put Brian McCann as part of the last group.

  5. Steve Rogers
    December 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I agree with Name. There are always going to be guys who stay with franchises for long periods of time. Even if the top of the line HOF caliber ones like Brett, Gwynn, Schmidt, Yount and Ripken will be rarer each generation.

    Also it is a little unfair to Wright to throw around the “The New York Mets are lucky in a lot of ways to have David Wright …and we should count our blessings” line. Which is almost putting Wright on the level of the aforementioned HOFers.

    Does he have the potential to still make it? Well sure, but then again he could just wind up with the “just short” career of a Bernie Williams, Don Mattingly, or Jim Gantner, etc. Hell, I’m not quite ready to put him ahead of Mike Piazza as the greatest offensive player in team history, or above Darryl Strawberry as the greatest home grown offensive player just yet (and no one is touching Tom Seaver).

    I mean great career to have, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to say “you do realize we are watching one of the all-time greats here” when it comes to being grateful that Wright signed his huge contract to stay with the team.

    • December 27, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      As of today, there were 21 Hall of Famers who made their MLB debut in the 1960s. Of those, only four of them played their entire career with one team. There were 15 HOFers who debuted in the 1970s and four of them played for only one team. There were 7 HOFers who debuted in the 1980s and four of them played for one team.

      Chipper Jones, Jeff Bagwell, Derek Jeter, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio, Chase Utley and yes, David Wright are all players who have legitimate HOF chances who spent (or will spend) their entire careers with one team. The number of HOFers who spend their entire career with one team has been very consistent since the 1960s.

      If Wright were to retire today, he would fall short of the HOF. He needs essentially two more years close to the production he had last year to be a serious candidate. If we give him a decline of 0.5 fWAR per year for the rest of his contract, which goes through 2020, he would have these numbers:

      2014 – 5.5
      2015 – 5.0
      2016 – 4.5
      2017 – 4.0
      2018 – 3.5
      2019 – 3.0
      2020 – 2.5

      That seems a tad generous. Let’s do a decline of 0.75, instead

      2014 – 5.25
      2015 – 4.5
      2016 – 3.75
      2017 – 3.0
      2018 – 2.25
      2019 – 1.5
      2020 – 0.75

      That would be 21 fWAR added to his current mark of 50.2 for a total of 71.2 — and I’d wager anything that would get him into the HOF.

  6. December 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    What about Dustin Pedroia? Seven years and $100 Million to stay in Boston. While his offensive production is not at the level of Cano’s, he is without a doubt a top three 2nd baseman. He will never be released or traded to another team (foreseeably), so I feel that he will also be one of the last franchise players in MLB.

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