David Wright Deal a Solid Bet for Mets

Multiple sources are reporting that David Wright and the New York Mets have reached agreement on a contract extension that essentially makes the third baseman a Met for life.

Initial reports have the deal at 7 years/$122 million. This is on top of next year’s $16 million team option, taking the total years and value of the contract  to 8/$138.

It always pays to be skeptical of long-term deals for players on the wrong side of 30, simply because we know — on average — that performance only declines from this point on.

Let’s take a look at how this might play out for the club.

Using a basic 5/3/2 approach — where you weight last year’s WAR .5, the year prior .3, and the year prior to that .2 — Wright is roughly a “true” 5.3 win player entering 2013. We can take that and estimate his value and performance going forward using some techniques borrowed from Tom Tango (and Jeff Zimmerman). Assume that player’s lose roughly .5 WAR per year from ages 28-32, and then .7 WAR per year after 32. Further, assume that the price teams pay for wins increases 5% per year.

Here’s how the Wright deal projects:

Year Age $/W WAR Projection Value in millions (year) Total Value of contract (millions)
1 30 $5.5 5.3 $29.0 $29
2 31 $5.8 4.8 $27.5 $57
3 32 $6.1 4.3 $25.9 $82
4 33 $6.4 3.6 $22.7 $105
5 34 $6.7 2.9 $19.2 $124
6 35 $7.0 2.2 $15.2 $140
7 36 $7.4 1.5 $10.8 $150
8 37 $7.7 0.8 $6.0 $156

By this approximation, the deal should work out well for the Mets. At the end of eight years, Wright is projected to accumulate roughly 25 WAR and those wins will be valued at around $156 million — an excess of $18 million from the actual contract. In reality, Wright only needs to accumulate roughly 21 WAR over the next eight years for the Mets to break even. Note that if the rate of contract inflation is higher than 5% per year (which it very well could be after all is said and done given the growth of television deals) then the contract is even more team friendly.

Of course, the big question is will Wright actually perform to this projection: does he have 25 wins left in him through age 38?

One way to answer that question is to look at his comparables at third base. Since 1970, only 16 players have accumulated at least 30 WAR through their age-29 season (sorted by total WAR):

Name G PA BB% K% wRC+ Fld BsR WAR WAR/700 PA
George Brett 1232 5338 7.80% 6.00% 137 60 0.4 53.6 7.0
Mike Schmidt 1082 4506 15.30% 21.30% 141 87 4 52.8 8.2
Scott Rolen 1195 5122 11.70% 18.40% 131 98.2 5.2 50.6 6.9
David Wright 1262 5453 11.30% 18.50% 135 -13.1 16.1 47.0 6.0
Wade Boggs 871 3910 13.40% 6.50% 150 57 -4.3 45.7 8.2
Buddy Bell 1372 5758 7.10% 7.70% 108 135 -13.4 42.2 5.1
Chipper Jones 1092 4749 13.70% 12.80% 143 -24 5.1 41.3 6.1
Adrian Beltre 1561 6400 7.20% 15.80% 105 115.1 -3.1 40.7 4.5
Robin Ventura 1086 4636 12.70% 11.80% 118 78 -8.1 36.3 5.5
Ryan Zimmerman 990 4310 9.20% 17.00% 120 51.7 8.5 34.6 5.6
Eric Chavez 1251 5156 10.70% 16.80% 115 34.2 4.7 33.2 4.5
Paul Molitor 1009 4603 7.90% 11.20% 114 11 19.7 30.5 4.6
Matt Williams 1006 4042 5.80% 19.30% 117 61 -4.8 30.2 5.2
Travis Fryman 1240 5400 8.00% 19.60% 106 26 -1 30.1 3.9

Six of the 14 players are still active. Of the 17, Wright ranks fourth with 47 WAR and sixth in terms of WAR/700 plate appearances (6).

Looking over how the non-active members of the list performed from ages 30-38, there aren’t a whole lot of red flags:

Name G PA BB% K% ISO wRC+ Fld BsR WAR WAR/700 PA
Mike Schmidt 1276 5384 15% 17% 0.266 153 48 -4.2 58.2 7.6
Wade Boggs 1250 5606 14% 7% 0.107 126 52 -7.5 45.7 5.7
Paul Molitor 1673 7564 9.70% 9.60% 0.151 127 -4 26.9 44.6 4.1
George Brett 1173 5037 12% 9% 0.197 136 -12 2.2 37.1 5.2
Robin Ventura 974 3635 13% 17% 0.191 108 77.9 -5.2 24.9 4.8
Buddy Bell 1025 4251 10% 8% 0.134 108 41 -6.1 24.4 4.0
Matt Williams 846 3553 7% 16% 0.201 102 28.8 -1 17.1 3.4
Travis Fryman 455 1817 9% 17% 0.147 94 -19 1 3.8 1.5

Only two of the eight players listed above failed to accumulate at least 24 WAR after age 30; Matt Williams and Travis Fryman. Williams never played a full season again after his age-33 season and was a below league-average hitter when he did manage to take the field. Fryman made the initial list mostly because of early playing time; he played in 66 games as a 21-year old and then took over full time at age 22. Looking over his career, he never really had much of a peak in terms of overall performance, reflected in his 3.9 WAR/700 PAs before age 30. Furthermore, if you look at the two active players that have accumulated over 3000 plate appearances since turing 30, both have so far exceeded 24 WAR (Chipper Jones – 44 WAR; Scott Rolen – 24.4 WAR).

If Wright is to make good on this contract it will come down to how he ages offensively. He’s had some good years with the glove, but third base is a hard position play above average as players age. Of Wright’s comparables, half managed to post wRC+ of at least 125 for the later halves of their careers (min 3000 PAs). Wright has a career 135 wRC+ and has never been a below average hitter in any year.

This isn’t to say that Wright is a lock to make good on this contract. Dave Cameron brought up some valid concerns back in September. However, there is reason to believe that Wright’s 2012 is closer to his true talent level than his 2009-2011. After three straight seasons of poor plate discipline, Wright returned to being a selective hitter. This coincided with the altered dimensions to Citi Field, allowing Wright to return to his old approach of generally driving the ball up the middle and the other way.

All contract extensions are a bet, but for the Mets this is a solid one. They’ve locked up their franchise player for (basically) life, one that has demonstrated that he still has the ability to provide above average value at a difficult defensive position. Moreover, while there still remains some risk that the team will not “break even”, locking up a franchise player to a long term deal that has a solid chance of breaking even is an accomplishment in itself. This is will certainly help with the fan base and provide an anchor as they begin to cycle in new, younger players.




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Bill works as a consultant by day. In his free time, he writes for The Hardball Times, speaks about baseball research and analytics, consults for a Major League Baseball team and appears on MLB Network's Clubhouse Confidential. Along with Jeff Zimmerman, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Tumblr or Twitter @BillPetti.

59 Responses to “David Wright Deal a Solid Bet for Mets”

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  1. Darren says:

    Good article. Question on your aging curve. If Wright’s true talent WAR is 5.3 using your previous 3 year weighting system, wouldnt that be his true talent WAR at the end of 2012. Should you not start the age discount in the 2013 season. Unless you assume that players do not have reduced production between 29 and 30

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    • Sparkles Peterson says:

      Yes, and that knocks 4 WAR and $24 million off his projected value. Pretty key omission.

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    • Bill Petti says:

      No, the idea is to get an estimate of what we think his talent is for 2013 season, given weighted performance over the previous three. This assumes a decent regression-7.8 down to 5.3.

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      • Sparkles Peterson says:

        Maybe you don’t think it’s warranted, but every major projection system is going to weight those numbers and then apply an aging correction.

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      • Jack Strawb says:

        Say what?

        You’re presumably projecting Wright’s 2013 season based on his last three plus seasons, but are not comparing that projection to his 2012 season?

        Doesn’t make sense.

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  2. Brian says:

    The interesting thing about this deal of course is that Wright is worth something to the Mets beyond his actual on field performance. It could be argued that teams extract more value when retaining their own player than signing a FA who provides equivalent on-field performance. The fact that Wright is a good bet to make good on his contract solely based on his on-field performance is a good sign for a team that has a lot of fans who may feel just a little less disillusioned after the signing.

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  3. Old School says:

    Mets will still suck.

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  4. Rippers says:

    Big risk to sign such an injury prone player to a lengthy contract.

    I can see Wright being a current day A-Rod by 2018 and this contract becoming an albatross.

    -22 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jeffrey Paternostro says:

      He’s played less than 144 games exactly once. And the 144 game season was due to a Matt Cain fastball to the head. What are Zim and Longoria then?

      +41 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jesse says:

      Yeah, Wright is just like A-Rod… except Wright didn’t admit to doing steroids, doesn’t have a personality disorder, and isn’t generally hated by fans.

      +30 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Steve says:

        All of this is true. He’s also not nearly as good at baseball. So there’s that too.

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      • Preston says:

        A-Rod produced 34 WAR the last seven years. I think the Mets would be fine with that return.

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      • BrunoB says:

        Actually Steve, right now A-Rod isn’t as good a player as Wright. And most likely for the foreseeable future and till the end of both contracts, that will be the case.

        A-Rod is already in significant decline, and his contract is one of the worst in all of baseball.

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    • BrunoB says:

      I would bet on ALL current long-term contracts becoming albatrosses at the end, including Pujols, Howard, Votto, Braun — and of course A-Rod, the poster boy for albatross contracts.

      It’s the nature of the business for high-profile players. Luckily, Wright’s contract is reasonable, compared to someone like A-Rod’s which is obscenely out of whack with his production.

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    • David Wright says:

      Do you guys like kissing your reflection in the mirror, too? Muchos smoochos por el con-kiss-tador!

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      • A-Rod says:

        As has been already well documented, I kiss myself in the mirror at least 50 times a day. Doesn’t everyone? I also have these sexy paintings of myself as a centaur, because I am such a virile stud. I also like to smooch these paintings at least 50 times a day!

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      • Derek Jeter says:

        You know, A-Rod, buddy, I’ve been meaning to tell you about these gift baskets I use. They might help with your problem.

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  5. LongTimeFan says:

    I think there’s overkill in these analyses. A quick run-through of the common yearly stats, coupled with his health history, work ethic, personality, drive, competitiveness, as well as observation, should make it rather obvious his projection over the course of the next 8 years looks good.

    Barring long-term injury problem,, I think he finishes his career with a .290-some BA with 3,000+ hits, 400+ home runs, 1,500+ RBI.

    He is also likely to accrue more All Star game appearances and more gold gloves (he deserved what should have been his third, in 2012). And hopefully, what he most wants – a World Series ring. He has a great relationship with team ownership and wouldn’t have signed an extension with the Mets if he didn’t feel the plan in place would result in championship caliber team.

    I’m happy for David Wright, the Mets, and the many fans who want him to be a Met for life.

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    • Eric R says:

      So, Using WAR, current $/win and age to project a contract is more overkill than trying to value and weight common yearly stats, health history, work ethic, personality, drive, competitiveness, and observation???

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    • Steve says:

      Since Wright will be 30 this year and he is almost exactly halfway to 3000 hits and 400 HRs, you basically believe he will not have a decline phase. He’ll simply match his production from ages 22-29?

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    • Preston says:

      This analysis is overkill for most fans, and that’s fine. But this is not the site for you. His “work ethic, personality, drive, competitiveness” as well as RBI’s and counting stats get plenty of coverage in the MSM I’m sure.

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  6. JS7 says:

    No room to bring back Jason Bay now.

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  7. Jabronies says:

    Great deal for the Mets. Borderline steal. Its nice to say you only want to sign guys to 4 year deals and dump them when they turn 35, but good luck getting an All-Star for that sort of deal.

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    • 3D says:

      I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. It’s valid to say that teams should tend to stay away from long multi-year contracts, but there are exceptions where it makes sense. Retaining your best homegrown franchise leader in almost every category who is beloved by the fans and loves being a Met despite their recent PR hellhole is one of those exceptions.

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  8. Dave says:

    As a Mets’ fan, I am thrilled they will keep Wright essentially until the end of his career. Hopefully, they’ll be hoisting #5 up on the outfield wall, ideally next to a new World Series banner.

    Now re-sign R.A. and go get us an outfielder or three!

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  9. WT Economist says:

    The problem with the contract is that it is backloaded. When you find out how much is being paid each year, and put it next to how much Wright is worth, you’ll find the last few years will be terrible.

    Just more future selling.

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    • Greg says:

      Google “time value of money.” It’s always better to defer money/backload contracts, especially when your owners are a bit cash poor right now.

      Even though the last few years of the contract he’ll be overpaid, he’ll be seriously underpaid the first few years. That’s just how long term deals work out.

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      • WT Economist says:

        You are assuming the Wilpons will set aside the money for later AND invest it succesfully. Those are two big assumptions.

        If the bigger pay is in the middle, that’s better than what I heard. I heard $22 million in the last three years. Which would be bad, unless the money had been set aside.

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      • Greg says:

        By paying off debt, you are effectively guaranteeing yourself a return on your investment. I don’t know what the interest rate is on their debt, but that certainly is an important factor in all of this.

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    • BrunoB says:

      You really don’t know that. That’s pure speculation. In fact, a report on NY radio today said that the backloading is concentrated in the middle of the contract. Backloading it at the end was supposedly a sticking point with Wright. So I suspect it isn’t your typically backloaded contract.

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      • Phrozen says:

        Backloading is, by default, at the end. “Backloading in the middle” would be “middle-loading.”

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      • BrunoB says:

        Phrozen, stop playing semantical games. It’s “backloading” in the sense that upfront money will be smaller then later payouts. But if you want to be anal about it, OK, call it middle-loading. That’s fine with me.

        My original point still remains that contrary to what WT Economist said, the last years of the contract won’t be “terrible” because of the way the payouts are structured.

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  10. Will H. says:

    Minor as it may sound, I think it’s important NOT to say his current contract plus the extension = what we should evaluate in terms of judging whether this seemed like a good deal. The cheapest year (16m) for the youngest post-peak year (30) should not be rolled in to make paying more for further-from-peak years with the extension (17+m for ages 31-37) look better.

    And as for thinking his age 30 baseline should be more based on a bounce-back year at age 29 in his eight full season, I am not so sure. I looked at the linked post about his plate discipline and saw the author noted that “whether or not this metric matters from an inferential standpoint will require more testing” and also need to point out that a huge part of his best years had to do with consistent power to which there is no reason to expect at this point in his career arc. And finally, a huge part of his WAR boost this year was for fielding. I believe that tends to decline as you get into the later years, right? Well he went from three straight years of -1 WAR to +1.5, and 2.5 WAR shift just right there. Given that these defensive metrics aren’t at all precise at the level of a single season, I’d be wary.

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    • placidity says:

      Exactly. If you back out the year that was already under contract, the surplus is pretty negligible, even starting him out at 5.3 WAR for $5.5M per. If either or both of those assumptions are on the high end (which they may well be), the deal gets ugly in a hurry.

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    • BrunoB says:

      That might make more sense if not for the fact that Wright’s uptick in offense this year (which also accounted for his uptick in WAR; not just his defense) coincided with the reconfiguration of Citi Field into a more neutral park. If this reconfiguration was responsible for this resurgence, then it makes perfect sense to project the future based on the last season.

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      • Will H. says:

        I mean it when I say that I don’t see how this reconfiguration has been such a big deal, so please clue me in. His career home/away ISO splits are 210/201 and in 2012 they were 187/183. He had more power at home before by a bit and did so last year, but the extent of that power has been, just as the general trend of the second half of his career to date, on a clearly lower level.

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      • BrunoB says:

        Will, because in 2009 when Citi Field opened, Wright changed his mechanics to over-compensate for the ginormously larger dimensions, and he overswung at everything. This screwed up his entire approach to hitting — both on the road and at home. One could even see where his struggles at the plate may have adversely impacted his fielding those years as well. Once the dimensions at Citi were changed into a more normal park, the pressure was off to over-swing at everything and Wright could revert to his old swing. Hence, the results you saw in 2012.

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    • Greg says:

      I disagree that you can’t evaluate the contract with the option year tacked on, because the contract was negotiated under the assumption that the 2013 guarantee was going to be considered part of the extension. It’s not a coincidence he got $122 million on top of the $16 million already owed, because that puts the total value at $138 million, which is 500k more than Santana got. It makes Wright the highest paid Met of all time.

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  11. greenfrog says:

    I’m not a Mets fan, but I wonder whether there is another risk factor to this contract, which is that Wright is likely to be good (his 4 – 5 WAR seasons) when the team is bad, and then bad (or just OK) when the team is good.

    In contrast, you could argue that Prince Fielder’s contract is more in alignment with his team’s prospects – good when the team is good, in decline when the team is in decline. Of course, that situation carries its own risks…

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    • JA311 says:

      Mets need him right now though, even when they aren’t as good. Ideally, a better core will be around him when he ages to compensate for declining production.

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  12. Steve says:

    this was obviously a fiscally irresponsible deal for the Mets. Pity.

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    • BurleighGrimes says:

      With all due respect, your opinion is not the “obvious” one at all, considering that it runs counter to the article and most of the comments. If you are gonna make a comment, at least back it up.

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  13. Jake says:

    The contract sounds like a solid deal, with potential for disaster, but that always exists, there are no guarantees. Combined with the effect it may have of helping Mets attract more fans, more FAs, more respect increases likelihood of good deal. And even if he’s not as good in later years but team is better, that wouldn’t make it a bad deal.

    I know as Mets fans we are trained to expect the worst, but this deal is the right decision right now based on the evidence we currently have available. Hindsight is 20/20 but it’s hard to argue this is a bad move, considering the alternative would likely be losing Wright as a free agent.

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  14. Oleg says:

    Problem with all this is not whether he’s worth the money or not. The real question is how much of the payroll he’s eating up. If a 35, 36, or 37 year old Wright is eating up 20% of the payroll and is producing WAR of 2 or lower, that’s a major issue. No team can win like that.
    Your WAR assumptions also don’t take into consideration that over the next 8 years he’s fairly likely to be injured and be out for an extended period of time. There aren’t too many Cal Ripkens out there…

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    • BrunoB says:

      The contract isn’t back-loaded. It’s middle-loaded. The bulk of the money will be paid in the middle years.

      Moreover, I expect that the Mets payroll will start to rise within a few years as their balance sheet continues to get healthier.

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      • Oleg says:

        You must be one hell of an insider since the details of the contract have not yet been disclosed anywhere. I’m also wondering how you see the balance sheet improving since the team still isn’t close to winning, the economy is still crap, and the wilpons are still the owners…

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      • BrunoB says:

        No. Not an insider. Just a reader. I read sites like Metsblog and others. You would benefit by going there too. It mentions how Wright did not want a heavily backloaded contract and wanted instead to load the middle years.

        As for the balance sheet, how can it not be better when you reduce debt by roughly $200 million via the sale of minority shares, and stem the yearly losses by roughly $50 million??? Moreover, you’ve resolved the lawsuit issues and may even get money back from the trustee that was suing you for $1 billion!

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      • Jack Strawb says:

        Expecting the Wilpon’s balance sheet to get healthier is a mug’s game. There’s no reason to expect that to be the case. In fact, history tells us that’s terribly unlikely.

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      • BrunoB says:

        But Jack, it’s already gotten better. So much so that the banks were willing to refinance some of the debt this year. That’s not an expectation. That’s fact. And I see no reason for continued better health now that a big chunk of the debt has been lopped off. Unless they fall prey to another ponzi scheme!

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  15. Dan the Mets Fan says:

    I don’t know if we can get an OF for Duda, but we certainly need one. I’m thinking Josh Willingham is a realistic get that won’t cost too much. To get a better OF than him I’m thinking the Mets have to pay too high a cost in prospects or current pitching. Unless they can snag someone really top-shelf like Gordon or Upton. As for Duda, I’d settle for a solid relief pitcher.

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  16. JayT says:

    There are a couple of things about this deal that would concern me. For one, he had a two and a half win swing on defense alone last year, as compared to the three previous years. From 09-11 he averaged about -10 fielding runs, last year he had 15. One year of fielding data seems less predictive then three, and the fact that he’s getting older doesn’t help either.
    Secondly, his first and second half splits were a little scary last year.
    First half: .351/.441/.563 (.385 BABIP)
    Second half: .258/.334/.416 (.301 BABIP)
    I’m pretty sure they didn’t move the walls back out at Citi halfway through the year, so are we sure that the new dimensions are what fueled his offensive resurgence, or was it just a fluky first half?
    Lastly, is he really is a 5.3 “true talent” player if he’s missed that mark by a significant margin three out of the last four years?

    In the end, I don’t think it’s a terrible contract, especially since $17 million isn’t the end of the world for a team like the Mets in a high revenue city, but like someone else mentioned, if you take out the year they already had locked up, I have a hard time seeing any surplus value in this contract.

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    • BurleighGrimes says:

      I’m really curious to see where Wright’s defense goes from here. He was basically a butcher in the field for 3 years, after being an above-average but not elite fielder for the years before. This year, according to Wright himself, he made one particular adjustment in the field based on a coach’s recommendation. Said coach had watched tape of Wright in earlier years, noticed something that had changed in that time, and had Wright correct it, saying it would drastically improve his jumps/response time to batted balls. Wright, Mets coaches, Mets announcers, and Mets fans all agreed that David looked much better in the field as a result, and the numbers back this up.

      I have no idea what the mechanical change was, but it is certainly a story to watch for Wright going forward. This deal is obviously much more palatable if Wright plays plus defense at 3rd base for the bulk of the deal, but recent history tells us that he is just as capable of putting up a -10 UZR year as a +15 one.

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  17. Marc says:

    What a bunch of crap. David had a surprising first two to two and a half months of great playing last year but was basically dead the second half when he knew he was basically playing for this contract. This contract might and that’s a big might be good for two seasons if this fragile, baby excuse for a player isn’t done already

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    • BrunoB says:

      Your post is hilarious. This baby excuse of a player had the fourth highest WAR in all of baseball in 2012. Only Trout, Posey and Braun had a higher fWAR. You do know the baseball season is 6 months, don’t you? I think most every baseball player wished they were as “fragile” as Wright in 2012!

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