Mets should consider Wright trade
Bonus notes and thoughts from our MLB on FOX broadcast of the Diamondbacks-Mets game on Saturday.
I’m guessing the Mets will sign third baseman David Wright to a contract extension, in part because ownership will fear losing credibility if it allows the face of the franchise to depart.
Mets chairman Fred Wilpon needs to A) prove he still is capable of spending money and B) appease a fan base that finds it difficult to accept that a New York team ranks 14th in payroll, below Miami, below Milwaukee, below Minnesota.
Know what, though?
Considering the large number of teams dealing with uncertainty at third base, the Mets should not automatically dismiss the idea of trading Wright.
A deal in July would appear unlikely; Wright, if moved, can void his $16 million option for 2013 and become a free agent at the end of the season. While his new club could sign him to an extension, perhaps even as a condition of the trade, the possibility that he only would be a two-month rental almost certainly would diminish his trade value.
The more realistic scenario, if the Mets do not extend Wright this summer, will be for the team to exercise his option, then negotiate with him or trade him this offseason.
How much would Wright be worth in each scenario?
Let’s start with the contract.
Wright, 29, is off to a fantastic start, leading the National League with a .486 on-base percentage. Assuming he finishes the season with big numbers, think Ryan Zimmerman-plus for his next deal.
Zimmerman, 27, recently signed a six-year, $100 million extension with the Nationals on top of the two years and $26 million remaining on his current agreement.
Wright’s career OPS-plus is 135. Zimmerman’s is 120. Zimmerman’s new average salary will be $16.67 million. Wright will want to build on the $16 million value of his option year.
So, what are we talking? Six years, $110 million? Seven years, $135 million? I can’t imagine general manager Sandy Alderson would approve of such numbers. The new contract would start when Wright is 30. What are the odds he would give the Mets a satisfying return?
Again, the answer might not matter — such is the public-relations pressure on the Mets in the wake of shortstop Jose Reyes’ free-agent departure. But let’s consider the other side.
By a conservative estimate, at least 10 teams could face major holes at third over the next two years. The list includes high-revenue clubs such as the Angels, Dodgers, Phillies, White Sox and Cubs. It also includes the Orioles, who could counter the Nationals’ signing of Zimmerman by acquiring Wright, who is from the same part of neighboring Virginia.
Not all of those clubs would be willing or able to part with major prospects for one year of Wright. The Mets probably wouldn’t move Wright within their division to the Phillies or Braves, the latter of which soon will lose Chipper Jones to retirement. But all Alderson would need is one eager partner.
That partner presumably would intend to sign Wright long-term, and offer a package of prospects to supplement the Mets’ rising core of young talent. The idea, from the Mets’ perspective, would be to pull off a bigger version of Carlos Beltran-for-Zack Wheeler.
The loss of Wright would enable the team to move second baseman Daniel Murphy to third, his best defensive position. The void, though, would be immediate: Wright is the Mets' only proven, consistent middle-of-the-order threat, and sluggers are increasingly difficult to develop or sign in free agency.
If Wright truly is back to his old self, the short-term impact of moving him would be severe, both on and off the field. But in retrospect, the Mets’ best option with Reyes was to trade him, and they barely even considered the possibility.
This time, at the very least, they need to look at both sides.
WELCOME BACK, JOHAN
Johan Santana’s average fastball entering Saturday was 88.4 mph, down almost 3 1/2 mph from 2007, his final season with the Twins.
Santana, after undergoing shoulder surgery and missing all of last season, might never be the same pitcher. But in Saturday’s 4-3 Mets victory, he showed that he still is elite.
On a day the Mets were trying to end a four-game losing streak, Santana established season highs in innings (seven) and pitches (108), earning his first victory since Sept. 2, 2010.
A scout this week called Santana a “rich man’s Jamie Moyer,” but Santana is more than that. As manager Terry Collins told reporters afterward, Santana still embraces the responsibility of being an ace.
Santana told me Friday and in an in-game interview Saturday that he still is not fully satisfied with his progress. Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said he expects to see “the real Johan” around June 1.
Well, this Johan is pretty good, too.
MAKING HIS PARENTS PROUD
Diamondbacks left-hander Patrick Corbin wasn’t at his best Saturday, allowing four runs in 3 1/3 painstaking innings. But in the big picture, his story remains remarkable, and his parents, Patty and Dan, were hanging on his every pitch at Citi Field.
Patty, in fact, declined to be interviewed while Patrick was on the mound. I appreciated her initial rejection — as a parent, I wouldn’t have wanted the distraction, either. But she and Dan agreed to come on camera after Patrick left the game, and you can see my interview with them here.
A couple of “experts” on Twitter said that the interview seemed awkward, but I thought it was refreshing. Not everyone in America is camera-ready, and these were two proud parents who had just experienced the intense emotions of watching their son pitch in the major leagues. What more do you want?
Corbin, 22, hails from Syracuse, N.Y., not exactly a baseball hotbed. He didn’t start pitching until he was a junior in high school, and only because some friends talked him into joining the team. He had the arm — he was a quarterback in football, not to mention a shooting guard in basketball.
Still, no major league team drafted Corbin out of high school. He went to Mohawk Valley Community College to play baseball and basketball, then played for a summer travel team and transferred to another junior college, Chipola College in Florida, which had a better baseball program.
At the end of that season, the Angels selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft. Jerry Dipoto, now GM of the Angels, was the D-backs’ interim GM when he acquired Corbin, lefty Joe Saunders and another prized pitching prospect, Double-A lefty Tyler Skaggs, in the Dan Haren trade on July 25, 2010.
MORE TO COME
The thing I love about the Diamondbacks — the reason I picked them to go to the World Series — is their depth.
Corbin looks like a keeper, and lefty Wade Miley is the reigning National League Rookie of the Month. And two more highly regarded youngsters — right-hander Trevor Bauer and lefty Tyler Skaggs — are developing at Double A.
Bauer, the third overall pick in last year’s draft, throws 95 to 97 mph with a power curve and an assortment of other pitches — some Diamondbacks officials believe he might have better stuff than anyone on their current major league staff. Skaggs, meanwhile, has struck out 36 and walked only six in 25 1/3 innings.
Yet, the D-backs’ depth goes far beyond their pitching.
Infielders John McDonald and Willie Bloomquist, the fill-ins for shortstop Stephen Drew, will become bench players again after Drew returns.
Outfielder Gerardo Parra, thought to be expendable after the D-backs signed free-agent left fielder Jason Kubel, has played in every game this season due to center fielder Chris Young’s injury. Parra will return to his fourth outfielder’s role once Young is back.
PITCHER, HIKER, AUTHOR
If you’re wondering why I talked about R.A. Dickey’s book during the broadcast but Dickey did not, it’s because the Mets’ right-hander didn’t want to be perceived as promoting his book in the middle of a game.
Former major league pitcher Bob Ojeda, SportsNet New York’s Mets studio analyst, sharply criticized Dickey last season for discussing, during a FOX broadcast, his plans to hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.
The criticism, in my view, was ridiculous — Matt Vasgersian and Tim McCarver asked Dickey the questions, and he answered. But Dickey cares deeply about his teammates, and he is sensitive to any perception of putting his self-interest first.
So, I talked about the book for him after he completed his interview with Kenny Albert and Eric Karros, and I’m happy to mention it again here.
This is not just any book. As I said on the air, “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball,” is the most intensely personal baseball book ever written.
Dickey does not simply recount his baseball journey, which in itself is fascinating. He details, along with co-author Wayne Coffey, some of his most painful life experiences.
Among them: Growing up poor in a dysfunctional household. Being sexually abused as a child by a female babysitter and then a 17-year-old boy. Cheating on his wife. Contemplating suicide.
Dickey endured it all, and his story ultimately is one of faith, redemption and hope.
GOOD TRADE FOR BOTH
Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill revived his career after the Diamondbacks acquired him and infielder John McDonald from the Blue Jays for second baseman Kelly Johnson last Aug. 23.
The way McDonald describes it, Hill had been trying to dig out of a hole, and suddenly he wasn’t in a hole anymore. Joining a team in the middle of a pennant race also made a difference.
“To walk right into it, you feel that,” Hill said. “It was a feeling I never had before — a blast. It didn’t matter what anyone was doing individually. All anyone cared about was winning.”
Johnson, on the other hand, not only has been one of the Blue Jays’ best offensive players, but also is a major reason the team leads the majors in double plays. The Jays tied for 10th in that department last season, but most consider Johnson much better on the pivot than Hill.
BROTHERS AT FIRST
The Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, a second-year player, shares time at first with Lyle Overbay, a 12-year veteran. Yet, despite being at different stages of their careers, their relationship is excellent.
Overbay, before signing with the D-backs last August, actually called Goldschmidt to say, “This will not be a platoon. I want to win (ballgames). I’m here to give you a breather, a day off here or there.”
Overbay since has served as a mentor to Goldschmidt, helping him in particular on the defensive side. In spring training, Overbay taught Goldschmidt to play off the bag against right-handed hitters, showing him that he could make it back to first than he thought.
It isn’t often that a player hits for the cycle in a game his team loses by nine runs, but that’s what happened to the Mets’ Scott Hairston on April 27 in an 18-9 loss to the Rockies.
Hairston said his older brother Jerry, an infielder with the Dodgers, sent him a congratulatory text that night and called him the next day. Scott said he also heard from a number of friends who had not been in touch with him for a long time — and, of course, his parents.
Scott’s mother, Esperanza, and father, former major league outfielder Jerry Hairston Sr., live in Tucson, Ariz. From what Scott was told, Esperanza started jumping up and down when Scott completed the cycle. Jerry Sr., as might be expected, was a bit more reserved.
AROUND THE HORN
• What is behind Kubel’s hot start? Two things, according to research by Bloomberg Sports.
One, Kubel entered Saturday’s play with the highest line-drive percentage in the National League, 31.3 percent.
Two, he had the second-highest batting average in the majors against fastballs, trailing only Matt Kemp. Kubel was at .444, Kemp .475.
• How strong is Mets outfielder Lucas Duda?
Two examples, as related by Mets coaches:
Duda hits balls out of the park with one hand in flip drills. He also hit 'em out in spring training while using a weighted 42-ounce bat. The extra weight came from wrapping pennies around the barrel, and Duda still went deep to center field.
• Speaking of the Mets’ outfield, it could be all-homegrown soon.
The Mets did not think Kirk Neuwenhuis would come this quickly; he underwent season-ending surgery on his non-throwing shoulder last July, and it was thought he would need more time at Triple A.
Matt Den Dekker, another promising center fielder, is at Double A. Once Jason Bay’s contract expires after next season, Den Dekker, Neuwenhuis and Duda could form the Mets’ outfield.
• Hey, let’s not forget about Ruben Tejada, the Mets’ homegrown shortstop.
His offense this season has been a plus — Tejada, Mets officials say, has a good idea of the strike zone, a good idea of how his swing works.
His steady defense, though, remains his calling card.
One scout who saw the Mets recently compared Tejada to none other than Bucky Dent, saying that if a ball is hit to Tejada, he makes the play.
Is he Reyes? No. But his future with the team appears secure.