Will the real David Wright please stand up?

I am a David Wright fan. But having said that, he is by no means untouchable and GM Sandy Alderson would be doing the Mets a disservice if he did not explore the trade market for Wright this offseason. The big question for the Mets is to determine what they think he is likely to offer the club in 2012 and beyond and compare that to what he might bring back in trade value.

What makes this question difficult is that Wright’s 2011 season is so tough to analyze. Sure, his overall numbers were .254/.345/.427 but he also played part of the year with a fracture in his back. Shouldn’t he be given some sort of bonus/reprieve for playing through that? So, let’s focus on what Wright did when he returned from the disabled list.

From July 22nd to September 4th, Wright was the guy who appeared to be on a Hall of Fame path a few years ago. In 40 games and 175 PA he put up a .327/.400/.529 line. But from September 5th through the end of the season, in 100 PA, Wright had a .178/.260/.289 line.

The easy thing to do is to chalk up his final 100 PA as a slump. It’s hard to put up an impressive batting line when you have a .233 BABIP. But what was so discouraging about Wright’s slump was the deterioration of his plate discipline.

For the year, Wright had an 11.6 BB% but in his final 100 PA, he had just eight walks for an 8.0 BB%. But where the real damage came was with his strikeouts. Wright fanned 28 times in his final 100 trips to the plate, for a 28.0 K%. In his season-ending slump, Wright had just a 0.29 BB/K rate.

Contrast that to what he did when he first came off the DL. Wright had 19 BB and 26 Ks in 175 PA. That works out to a 10.9 BB%, a 14.9 K% and a 0.73 BB/K rate.

So, after he came off the DL, we have a 175-PA sample where Wright put up offensive numbers every bit as good as he did when he was an MVP candidate. And we have a 100-PA sample where he put up numbers that are just horrible.

You’re never as good as you look when you’re in the middle of a hot streak and never as bad as you look while in a slump. If we take Wright’s numbers for his 275 PA after returning from the DL, he has a .272/.349/.440 line with 27 BB and 54 Ks. That’s a 9.8 BB%, a 19.6 K% and a .50 BB/K rate, all with a .317 BABIP.

That’s a pretty good player, but it’s not a $15 million player, which is what Wright will earn in 2012. And there are two other factors to consider here. Over his final 275 PA, Wright’s .789 OPS is beneath Daniel Murphy’s 2011 OPS of .809 in 423 PA. And also, Wright is no longer anything resembling a good defensive third baseman. Last year, even with the reduced playing time, Wright had a -7 Defensive Runs Saved number, the third straight season he finished in negative numbers. His UZR/150 was -16.4 in 2011.

You will hear no shortage of opinions on what the Mets will do with Wright. Some say if they sign Jose Reyes, they’ll look to move Wright to save salary. Others will say if they don’t sign Reyes, only then will they look to move Wright, as then they will be in 100% rebuilding mode.

As much as it pains me to say it, the Mets should move Wright regardless of what happens with Reyes. We have a player who has had two serious injuries (concussion, back), who has changed his approach at the plate for the worse and who has fallen off a cliff defensively.

Armchair psychiatrists will point to the move to Citi Field as the beginning of the end for Wright. They may very well be correct. Perhaps a move to Colorado or Milwaukee will be just what Wright needs to get his career back on track. But at this point in time it does not appear to be happening in Queens.

Alderson was able to get a top pitching prospect for two and a half months of Carlos Beltran, a mid-30s outfielder with bad knees and a clause in his contract that prevented offering arbitration. Hopefully he can get a similar or better offer for Wright. But we should remember that Alderson also had to kick in a bunch of money in the Beltran deal.

The Mets should be happy with a prospect package from the Rockies headed by 3B Nolan Arenado in return for Wright. If they kick in money for his 2012 salary, perhaps they can also get either SP Drew Pomeranz or C Wilin Rosario. But Mets fans shouldn’t expect a good established major leaguer and a top prospect in return for Wright unless they add more to the deal.

Right now, Wright is a good player, who could perhaps do much better with a change of scenery. But he’s no longer cheap and no longer has the trade value he did three years ago, due to the aforementioned injuries, offensive inconsistencies and defensive woes.

The best thing for Wright is a trade to a club where he can start over and go back to what made him so successful in the past. He needs to make contact and hit the ball from gap to gap. While there’s nothing preventing Wright from adopting that approach in Citi Field, we’ve seen his K% explode since the Mets moved parks, as Wright battles the dimensions in his new home field.

And what’s good for Wright would also be good for the Mets. He’s unlikely to return to his pre-2009 levels and at this point it’s even money who would produce better over 162 games in Citi Field – Wright or Murphy. And when you factor in the huge discrepancy in contracts between the two, it’s apparent what the Mets need to do.

Now, will the Rockies or anyone else meet Anderson’s asking price?

4 comments for “Will the real David Wright please stand up?

  1. NormE
    October 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    As I understand it, if traded Wright can opt out of his contract after 2012. That would reduce his value to a team looking to trade for Wright.
    Brian, I agree with your analysis and the trading of David Wright is probably in order. Having said that, I know there will be days when Murphy will do some bonehead thing in the field or on the basepaths that will make us miss Wright. He is a far-more gifted athlete than Murphy, but his time has passed.

    • Brian Joura
      October 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      Currently, Wright’s contract includes a $16 million club option for 2013. If he’s traded, Wright can void that option.

  2. October 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    If it’s me making the call, I’d keep Wright for the 2012 season, exercise the option, and then revisit the whole situation a year from now. I’m in no rush to sell low on Wright.

    FWIW, per FanGraphs, Wright’s value over the past 7 years:

    2011 – $8.7M
    2010 – $16.0M
    2009 – $16.0M
    2008 – $32.0M
    2007 – $36.3M
    2006 – $19.1M
    2005 – $21.0M

  3. Metsense
    October 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    The Mets have an adequate backup In Daniel Murphy and Murphy‘s best position is 3B
    Lutz and even Satin are progressing at AAA at 3B
    Wright’s hitting and fielding is regressing the past few seasons
    The Mets are playing losing ball with him
    He is the most tradable and could get the most value back

    They should consider Wright and Pelfry for a front end starter, and they should only get a front end starter for this package, they need to give up value, in this case a former all star and a starting pitcher
    Pelfry is a serviceable back end starter and takes the ball every 5th day
    Pelfry is still in his prime and was a 1st round draft pick so there is the still the potential for improvement. I am a Wright fan but a Met fan first so if the proper deal comes along I would trade him.

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