Yesterday Mack’s Mets own Ernest Dove posed the rhetorical question, “Suppose David Wright returns to full health…what can that mean to the Mets success?” He suggests that David should transition into a less torque-heavy contact hitter rather than the slugger he once was and fulfill the former Daniel Murphy 2nd-in-the-order role. He’s hoping for 135+ games from him for the 2016 season.
As the resident pessimist here, I call into question some of that optimism. First of all, by his own admission, Ernest concedes that Wright has not played a full season since 2010. The spinal stenosis situation exacerbated by the back fracture that have occurred since then concern me nearly as much as the fact that in 2010 he was just 27 years old and now he’ll begin 2016 at age 33.
For the moment, however, let’s assume a new conditioning regimen and the transition to contact hitter is indeed in the cards for The Captain. What can rightfully be expected of him? Well, in 2015 he appeared in 38 games with a slash line of .289/5/17. Extrapolated out for a full season you can pretty much quadruple those numbers and arrive at .289/20/68….respectable for sure, but hardly a $20 million player. In fact, if you look at what newly acquired Neil Walker did for the Pirates in 2014 it was fairly similar -- .271/23/76. He struck out quite a bit less, but to Wright’s credit his OBP was a very good .379. The money is, of course, a sunk cost. If he delivered these types of numbers the Mets would feel OK about their investment and somewhat more confident for the future that he’d produce at this same reduced level. His contract would be untradeable, but he’d be a contributor. That’s a best case scenario.
Suppose, however, that Wright went down the Don Mattingly path with his spinal condition and rapidly slid from superstar to unable to play. At age 33 he was limited to just 97 games and his final season a year later his power dropped to 7 HRs and 49 RBIs despite getting over 500 ABs. What is the Mets plan to do the unthinkable – replace David Wright – either due to long term injury or forced early retirement?
The first inclination is probably Wilmer Flores. He demonstrated last year an ability to drive in runs and 3B is a far less challenging position for a slow, big man than is shortstop. It’s actually his third position after SS and 2B based upon the number of games played. Would he deliver Wright-like numbers from the Shea Stadium era player that garnered him the largest contract in Mets history? It’s highly unlikely. However, could he deliver on that .289/20/68 level if given 150 games? Based upon his .263/16/59 from last year, the answer would appear to be yes.
After that the pickings internally get mighty slim. You have some middle infielders in AAA who might get promoted, including Dilson Herrera, Gavin Cecchini, Matt Reynolds, Danny Muno or Eric Campbell. While Muno or Campbell could play 3B in a pinch, neither are going to make you forget Brooks Robinson out there. The others would be more natural at SS or 2B which would require moving one of the newly acquired keystone duo to an unfamiliar position. The next alternative would be to go outside the organization for a solution.
I commented on Ernest’s article that David Wright might consider doing the Mets a solid and following his buddy Michael Cuddyer off into early retirement if it becomes clear that he’s no longer able to perform. When Johnny Bench saw his skills plummet at age 33 he left the game shortly thereafter when it was clear he could no longer deliver at the level on which he’d built his career. Between the Mets, Vitaminwater and his various endorsements, Wright is certainly not hurting for money. The $67 million the Mets will still owe Wright for the four seasons after this upcoming one would go a long ways towards ensuring they have money to pay their starting pitchers. Food for thought…