Did The Mets Lowball David Wright?

This morning, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Mets offered David Wright a six year, $100 million extension, noting that it was an offer that Wright was sure to refuse. After all, the terms of the extension are basically equal to what the Nationals gave Ryan Zimmerman, and he was coming off a mediocre season and was two years away from free agency. Evan Longoria got a six year, $100 million extension from the Rays yesterday, and he was four years away from free agency. If the Mets want to sign Wright, they’re going to have to do a lot better than that, right?

Well, yes and no. It’s unlikely that Wright is going to sign for 6/100. He probably should get more than Ryan Zimmerman did. But, at the same time, we have to recognize that the offer isn’t that far away from what a reasonable extension for Wright should look like, and the ground to cover isn’t as large as it might sound at first glance.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a decent amount of contract extensions for players headed into their walk years, and in general, so there’s a pretty well established market price for quality players one year from free agency.


Player Years Dollars AAV
Joe Mauer 8 184 23
Matt Kemp 8 160 20
Adrian Gonzalez 7 154 22
Cole Hamels 6 144 24
Matt Cain 5 112 22
Andre Ethier 5 85 17

The average worth of these deals is $21 million per year over 6.5 years, so if we think Wright is somewhere around the middle of this group in terms of value, then market price should be something closer to 6/130 or 7/150, not accounting for any inflation. And in that light, the Mets offer looks relatively weak and kind of insulting.

But, there’s a bit of a catch here. In Kemp’s case, the eight year deal actually bought out one final year of arbitration, and began immediately rather than beginning the following year. Coming off his monster 2011 season, Kemp was set to make something like $20 million in 2012 regardless of whether he agreed to a long term contract or not. Counting the first $20 million to Kemp is akin to counting the $16 million that Wright is due in 2013 under the terms of his old contract – that’s money that is going to the player regardless of how negotiations turn out.

If we drop Kemp’s extension number to 7/140, that puts him essentially in line with Gonzalez and Hamels. These guys are all a clear step ahead of Ethier but also a big step below Mauer, so we can focus on the comparables between those two outliers. And, unfortunately for Wright, those guys were all a bit younger when they went to the table looking for a new deal.

Kemp signed away seven free agent years that covered ages 28-34. Gonzalez signed away seven free agent years that covered ages 30-36. Hamels signed away six free agent years that covered ages 29-34. Wright’s not going to be eligible for free agency until age 31, so he’ll be a year older than Gonzalez was, two years older than Hamels was, and three years older than Kemp was. A seven year deal for Wright would cover his age 31-37 seasons, and none of these guys got their age 37 season covered by their extensions.

This brings us back to the Ethier, who was also selling free agent seasons that began at age 31. He only got five years, going through age 35. We just don’t have a lot of precedent for teams offering up extensions that both pay market rate prices into a player’s late 30s. If Wright is looking for that kind of deal, then he has to start comparing himself to guys like Joey Votto or Ryan Braun, and he’s simply not at that level in terms of sustained greatness.

If Wright is dead set on seven years, then the trade off is probably a somewhat lower AAV than the rest of his comparables. If he wants that $20-$22 million per year salary, then he’s probably looking at six years, not seven.

In that light, the Mets 6/100 offer isn’t totally absurd. It’s low, but if the fair ending point is somewhere around 6/125 or 7/135, then opening at 6/100 and negotiating up from there isn’t lowballing with an intent to drive the player away. Andy Martino has already added that the Mets were willing to go for a seventh year at “well in excess of $100 million”, so it sounds to me like the Mets aren’t too far off from a fair ending point. Given the Kemp/Gonzalez/Hamels contracts, it seems unlikely that he’s going to get much more than $150 million, and given his age, there’s a decent case he should probably take a bit less. If the Mets are already in the 7/120 range — which is where simply adding an extra year to 6/100 would put them — then the gap here doesn’t seem unbridgeable.

Obviously, we don’t know what the Mets exact offer is at this moment, and we don’t know what Wright’s agents are asking for in order to get a deal done. But, given the reported offers made and the types of contracts that these players have signed in similar situations over the last few years, there’s no reason for 6/100 to be viewed as an insult. It’s a starting spot to get to a logical middle ground. At something in the 7/130 range, the contract could be a win for both sides, and it’s just not that big of a leap to get from 6/100 to 7/130.

Whether or not the Mets should extend Wright is another question entirely. When I wrote up the decision in September, only 22.5% of the voters said they favored an extension. There’s still a strong belief that rebuilding clubs should trade away their best players in an effort to restock the farm system when they don’t appear to be on the cusp of contention. I disagree with that line of thinking, and I don’t think the Mets are really all that far off from being a viable contender. If Sandy Alderson can get Wright signed for something in that 7/130 range, then in my view, it’s a deal worth doing.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


27 Responses to “Did The Mets Lowball David Wright?”

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  1. kman says:

    Why do you disagree with the line of thinking that they should trade Wright? And what makes you think they aren’t far from being a viable contender? The Braves and Nats are miles ahead of them in terms of a young core of talent that will be around for a while, and at least over the next year or two even the Phillies are more likely to contend than the Mets…

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    • Ben Hall says:

      Click on the link to see why he disagrees.

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    • dovif says:

      The arms that are already on the major league roster, the young IF featuring David, Thole and Tejeda. A few OF would easily turn this into a winning team

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      • jpg says:

        First off Thole sucks. Where is the upside with our young infield? Tejada is nice player but his lack power limits his ceiling. He’s probably a 3-4 win player at short going forward which considering his age and team control left is very valuable, no doubt. But let’s not fool ourselves in thinking he gonna become another Jeter or Tulo. Murphy is a butcher at 2nd who also stopped hitting for power entirely. He’s best suited as a super sub who can fake it at 1B, 2B and 3B in the mold of a poor man’s Mike Young. I like Ike but I see a guy who’s peak will be closer to LaRoche than a Prince or AGon. The outfield is a joke.The bullpen is an even bigger joke. This team hasn’t been competitive since 2008. We never replaced Beltran or Reyes with other players who could even approximate what those guy gave us. Besides the rotation, what exactly should I be excited about as a Mets fan? I’m struggling to see how this team “isn’t that far away”.

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      • NBH says:

        If we’re going to throw around $100mil numbers we should consider the tax implications. NYC has an income tax and NYS has a high state tax. Players signing in Cali and NY need to get a deal that’s 10% better than the low tax cities/states!!!

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      • Jack Strawb says:

        “A few OF would easily turn this into a winning team”

        This is perfectly silly. First ‘a few’ OF are well beyond the Mets reach. Do they really have 30+m for a couple of FAs? They certainly don’t have any trade chips.

        Second, and in addition, you’re imagining that everyone on the team plays very, very well.

        Third, you’re under the impression that Thole and Tejada are real players. Tejada may have a future, but Thole looks exactly like a placeholder, a cheap player who keeps a job as long as he’s cheap.

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  2. Eminor3rd says:

    I know he just had a fantastic year, but that 7.8 wins is propped up by a 25 run swing in UZR for a career -13 defender. I don’t know, I think that’s just too much for 31 year old David Wright. I’m all for keeping him around, but if I’m the Mets, I’m not paying that price.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      To me, David Wright is more like 5 years, $18m per year.

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    • Spike says:

      Mets have no payroll commitments beyond this year. If they aren’t going to pay to keep their own players, they certainly aren;t going to be active in free agency either. Players under 30 rarely reach free agency anyway so the Mets can either keep their own star players or be looking at a long period of irrelevancy. Thinking that trading a star for prospects is going to be the answer to their problems, I would suggest they speak to the Indians who are still a mess 4 yrs after trading CC and Lee for prospects.

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      • RéRé says:

        *Indians fan nods sadly*

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      • jpg says:

        I don’t see how Cleveland is a good comp here. They were never resigning Lee or C.C. Trading them was a good process with horrible results. They are paying the price because guys like LaPorta turned out to be busts, injuries destroyed Sizemore and they gave a stupid contract to a DH who similarly was robbed of his abilities due to injuries in Hafner.

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  3. Baltar says:

    I gag whenever a player turns down $100M for any amount of years. If you can have absolute certainty of getting $100M, why would you ever gamble for more? Do you have your heart set on buying your own country?

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      It’s good to be the king

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    • Nick says:

      What’s the gamble? He’s negotiating, not playing blackjack. It’s not like the offer is automatically rescinded if he asks for more.

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    • Jack Strawb says:

      Me too, but for different reasons.

      In any case, if the Mets won’t pay Wright 100m+, another team will. I’ll guess his absolute floor in this market is 120m.
      His only risk is if he gets hit by a bus on the way to signing.

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  4. Ivan Grushenko says:

    I don’t see why Wright should accept a low offer until Hamilton and Greinke sign this winter. If MLB teams are flush with money they could get more than the guys on the list above. In any case he has nothing to really lose by waiting.

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  5. Neil S says:

    Dave wrote: “he has to start comparing himself to guys like Joey Votto or Ryan Braun, and he’s simply not at that level in terms of sustained greatness.”

    At the risk of sounding like Joe Morgan, the problem isn’t “sustained greatness”, but a) consistency and b) showing improvement. Because Wright has had a longer career than either Braun or Votto, during which he’s amassed more WAR (a lot more, actually) and had comparably great years. But he’s mixed in a merely “good” year (albeit one that’s still comparable to a couple of Braun’s seasons) and a very average one.

    The probem, and the spot where Wright fails the comparison, is probably best described as “what have you done for me lately?”

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    • McAnderson says:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?players=3410,3787,4314

      I think you have a good point here. Wright has more accumulated more WAR than either, even if you subtract away his 8.6 WAR he had before age 23 (since Braun & Votto started at age 23), which isn’t really fair, he is still right there. No the problem is that Wright was trending down prior to this year, and Votto and Braun were going up. However, if Wright believes this year is the “real David Wright” then he should compare himself to Braun and Votto

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      • Jack Strawb says:

        He can believe it all he wants. No one else should, and no one else will pay him for it.

        He’ll make more than enough off of his one great year in four. Insisting that he get paid as though he was coming off five consecutive 7-8 win seasons is foolish.

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  6. ecp says:

    Um, gee, I read at least two hours ago that it’s come out now that the Mets actually have offered Wright well more than $100 million.

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  7. Phantom Stranger says:

    If I were David’s agent, it would tell me the Mets aren’t serious about resigning him to a new contract. David, I would prepare to sell your place in New York because you’ll be moving soon enough. That offer was much lower than the market will offer and no player has ever given a New York team a hometown discount.

    He’ll be a perfect fit on the Yankees when they move A-Rod to DH.

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  8. walt526 says:

    Agreed. If he seriously wants 7 years, then he’s going to need to come down quite a bit on the AAV. The being said, $100M over 6 years is not going to get the deal done.

    I’d offer him $126M over 7 years ($18M/yr) or $105M over 5 years ($21M/yr) and hope to compromise around $120M over 6 years ($20M/yr).

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  9. Brian says:

    I think part of the problem is that Wright had a great year last year, but the three seasons prior to that were not great. Did it just take Wright time to adjust to CitiField or was last year the aberration? You can’t just forget that he averaged barely over 3 WAR/yr in the three years prior to last season. I think it all collectively needs to be factored in. More importantly, while Dave gave his list of players one year removed from free-agency, those guys (Either excepted) were all under 30 when they were headed into free agency. Wright will be 31 prior to the 2014 season. If this off-season has told us anything so far, it’s that teams are more hesitant than they used to be as far as committing long years to guys in their 30’s. 6yrs/$100 million is certainly more than Adrian Beltre got only two years ago prior to his age 32 season (5 yrs/$80mil). Coupled with the more recent Zimmerman and Longoria extensions, it’s hard to see how the Mets offer is really out of line. Quite frankly, I’m a little surprised they started out that high.

    The bottom line for me is that David Wright is a really good player, but one heading toward the back end of his career. I just can’t see anyone else (even the Yankees) coughing up 7yrs/$150 million for him after next season is over. If the Mets move off their alleged offer, I don’t think they should move very far.

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    • attgig says:

      “I think part of the problem is that Wright had a great year last year, but the three seasons prior to that were not great. Did it just take Wright time to adjust to CitiField or was last year the aberration?”

      or once they finally moved the fences in to make the park a bit more neutral, he realized that he could hit again.

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    • Jack Strawb says:

      If a player actually takes three years to adjust to a park, you’re probably better off figuring as though he got lucky.

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    • Zen Madman says:

      Wright didn’t adjust to CitiField. CitiField adjusted to Wright. Rather, Sandy Alderson Adjusted CitiField to suit David Wright. Looks like it worked.

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