(Eds: With AP Photos.)By R.B. FALLSTROMAP Sports Writer
This could be David Wright’s last spring training with the New York Mets, a franchise coming off three straight losing seasons and a payroll purge. Surrounded by newcomers, the senior Met must be feeling like the last man standing.
”That’s what happens,” Wright said Wednesday. ”You don’t have success, and you get that turnover, and you see a lot of these new faces.”
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Unlike departed fellow stars Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, whether Wright stays or goes might not be all about the money. Beyond failures on the field, the landscape is complicated by financial turmoil related to ownership’s investments in disgraced financier Bernard Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme.
The Mets hold a $16 million option for next season on the 29-year-old Wright, who’s coming off an injury-shortened 2011 that also was his worst offensively since his rookie year in 2004. It was an easier call cutting ties with Reyes and Beltran, both of whom were approaching free agency and price tags that were less clear.
General manager Sandy Alderson was circumspect earlier in the week, saying the Mets’ finish might not factor into a decision on Wright.
”I’m not sure that that’s very high on the list,” Alderson added. ”If there’s anybody on the team whose future is independent of the club’s performance, I think it’s David.”
Wright does his best not to fret about where he might end up.
”That doesn’t wear on me at all because it’s not my decision. I mean, you try not to worry about things that are out of your hands,” Wright said. ”It’s probably a better question for Sandy and the front office.”
Reyes signed a six-year, $106 million deal with the Marlins, and Beltran, dealt to the Giants at the trade deadline, got a two-year, $26 million deal with the Cardinals. Now, Wright will be playing alongside 22-year-old rookie shortstop Ruben Tejada.
”The team’s going to miss Jose, the organization’s going to miss Jose, the fans are going to miss Jose,” Wright said. ”Personally, I’ll miss Jose.
”But at the end of the day, that’s the business of the game.”
Although he hasn’t crunched the numbers, manager Terry Collins believes the Mets have the youngest team in the major leagues. Other players who will be 25 or younger on opening day include starting pitchers Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese, catcher Josh Thole, first baseman Ike Davis and outfielder Lucas Duda.
Collins was unhappy Wednesday that Tejada won’t arrive until Saturday due to visa issues in Panama, but a day earlier predicted that Tejada had a ”chance to move really fast to be a special player.”
”Yeah, we’re a little lean at the upper levels and we might be a little thin right now,” Collins said. ”But we’ve got some players coming.”
A March trial could clarify how much money the Madoff investments will cost the Mets. A bounce-back year individually certainly couldn’t hurt Wright’s chances of staying put.
Wright is a lifetime Met and the longest-tenured player on the team, too, making his debut in 2004 three years after New York made him a first-round draft pick. He’s a career .300 hitter with five 100-RBI years. He also has two Gold Gloves at third base.
Last year, he was sidelined for two months by a stress fracture in his back, and batted just .261 with 14 homers and 61 RBIs in 102 games. He said he’s well past that problem.
”David Wright’s too good a player to go through what he went through last year,” Collins said. ”We’re going to have play at a higher level. No question we’re going to miss some of the things Carlos and Jose brought.
”But I think we’ve got some people who will pick that up.”
Wright’s numbers were worse before he went on the disabled list May 18, a .226 average and six homers. Now, he said the back feels ”great.”
”I feel healthy, and had a whole offseason to kind of work on it, strengthen it,” Wright said. ”So I’m excited to come to spring and kind of put that back behind me.”