Mets Listening: Who Is the Wright Fit?

After finishing the season 77-85 and watching their superstar, Jose Reyes, about to test the free agent market, the New York Mets appear poised to embark on a true rebuilding effort. Recent reports out of New York suggest that Sandy Alderson believes 2014 or 2015 is a more realistic window for contention for his club, which leaves third baseman David Wright’s future with the organization in a state of flux.

He is owed $15M next season and has a club option of $16M ($1M buyout) remaining on his contract. That makes him incredibly expensive for a team that does not have aspirations of legitimate contention during that time frame. His wOBA has also decreased every season since 2007 and only hit .254/.345/.427, which has caused some folks to start asking if Wright is nearing the tipping point of his career.

For a team wishing to amass young talent to bolster a farm system that is not bursting at the seams with talent — especially given the unfortunate injury to Jenrry Mejia — listening on offers for David Wright could be wise. If they can get Wright to waive his opt-out clause and give an acquiring team two years of team control, this offseason could be the best chance for the Mets to garner impact talent in return for the third baseman, and though the organization could retain Wright to appease fickle fans and drive attendance, Alderson and company should evaluate the market for their third baseman this winter.

Alderson should have no trouble finding a suitor. Despite the recent decline at the plate, he is only one year removed from hitting .283/.354/.503 with 29 home runs and will only be 29-years-old next season. Even his disappointing .342 wOBA in 2011 was still 15th best out of 34 third basemen (min 350 PA).

But which teams are potential matches?

Angels: Joel Sherman of the New York Post explicitly mentions the Angels in his Sunday column, mentioning that the Mets could target Peter Bourjos plus pitching (which, we’d guess, new Anaheim GM Jerry DiPoto would laugh at). Wright also does not seem to be a natural fit in Los Angeles, given that the Angels already have Alberto Callaspo at third — who compiled 3.6 WAR in 2011. They may be looking for a bit more power from the hot corner, but it’s hard to imagine they’d give up a young talent like Bourjos for a moderate upgrade at third base.

Cubs: Losing Aramis Ramirez should put the Cubs in the market for someone to man the hot corner in 2012. Josh Vitters has long been the heir apparent at third for the Cubs, but he is only 22-years-old and hit .283/.322/.448 in Double-A. Another year of seasoning in the minors would do him well. But one has to wonder … are the Cubs really in position to trade talent for two years of production?

Tigers: Detroit seems to be a nice fit. They suffered through a season with Brandon Inge, Don Kelly, and Wilson Betemit at third — none of which compiled more than 0.6 WAR on the season — and should be in buying mode due to their position as postseason contenders, yet again. The farm system also has the young pitching to broker a deal, if necessary, though they may not have the money available to add Wright and fill other holes on the roster.

Dodgers: After Casey Blake underwent season-ending neck surgery, the Dodgers enjoyed 61 games of Aaron Miles at third base. The organization will be searching for a significant upgrade and could have dreams of postseason contention in the next two years. If Los Angeles misses out on the top-tier free agents — as is expected — Wright would be a nice consolation prize and addition to a batting order that already features Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The Dodgers have talked about adding offense this winter, and if MLB wants to make the franchise as attractive as possible to bidders at the auction, having Wright in the fold might actually pay for itself.

Rockies: It seems the Rockies have been waiting on Ian Stewart to develop forever. After a sub-.200 season, though, the patience is likely evaporated. Things got bad enough that Kevin Kouzmanoff played 25 games at third. The Rockies have been mentioned all over the Hot Stove this winter, as they are expected to be extremely busy on the trade market. Outfield prospect Charlie Blackmon could be a natural part of the negotiations.

Marlins: Perhaps no team needs an upgrade more than the Marlins, who trotted out Greg Dobbs for 100 games at third base. Prior to the season, the organization expected Matt Dominguez to blossom into the starter of the future, but he only hit .258/.312/.431 in Triple-A. They have been rumored to be looking to make a big splash this winter, and Wright would certainly qualify.

Phillies: Placido Polanco may have been worth 2.8 WAR in 2011, but he struggled through a plethora of injuries and only hit .243/.304/.287 after the month of April. Philadelphia should be extremely aggressive once again this offseason after not meeting expectations, though addressing shortstop and first base (prior to the return of Ryan Howard) could draw most of the attention and resources. Their rumored pursuit of Michael Cuddyer probably also makes them longshots.

Brewers: Of qualified batters, Casey McGehee had the lowest wOBA in all of baseball by 20-points at .272. He could be a bounce back candidate for 2012, but his approach at the plate was dreadful down the stretch. Taylor Green could also earn a shot after earning Player of the Year honors in the Brewers’ farm system last year. Doug Melvin is not afraid to engage in blockbuster trades, however, and could be looking for a more established product at third base in an attempt to replace some of the production lost with the departure of Prince Fielder.

Sandy Alderson and the Mets may ultimately opt to not move David Wright this offseason, but as you can see, it would not be due to a dearth of interest. Instead, the organization should listen intently and gauge the market. They could miss out on a prime opportunity to garner a solid prospect or two for a player that does not seem to be an integral part of their future.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

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Why would Wright void his opt-out clause?

If I’m the Mets, unless I get blown away with an offer now (or midseason), I bet on Wright rebounding and having a big 2012, and then I exercise the option next fall. At that point, I should have a better idea of how close to legitimately contending my team is, and I can either shop Wright around or try to extend him.


This. The risk is moderate but the reward is very high. Wright’s value is pretty low right now. It could get lower if he has another rocky season, but between the fences moving in and the fact that the Mets are basically selling one year of his service for $15 million whether they trade him this year or next, it seems like there’s a lot more value to gain than lose by letting him test Citi’s new dimesions first. Going after a moderate upside play like Charlie Blackmon really doesn’t make any sense. They could almost certainly still get a return like that if they waited a year, and the amount they’d lose at the gate by parting ways with both Wright and Reyes would wipe away a substantial amount of the $15 million savings. The best argument for dealing him now is that they might get an extra year of development time on any prospects they acquire, but that means they’d need to be offered a legit star-ceiling prospect who is a year or two away–not a polished, moderate upside role player. That type of return will still be there a year from now unless Wright completely collapses, and in a year it will be clearer what type of role player might best fit a 2013 or 2014 team that plans to contend.