Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away (Shea Stadium to be exact) David Wright and Jose Reyes were the best young left side of the infield in all of baseball. Each had signed on long term with the Mets while helping lead the team to within one game of the World Series in 2006. There were seemingly many more trips to the postseason in the future for the two Mets cornerstone pieces.
The sky was the limit for the dazzling, lightning-fast shortstop from the Dominican Republic and the All-American kid third baseman from Virgina. Two late-season collapses, one blown out hamstring, one plunk on the noggin, and an ownership Ponzi scheme mess later, the picture is much more bleak for Reyes and Wright, the dynamic duo who were supposed to lead this team to the promised land.
While down in Port St. Lucie, Tom McDonald and I got the chance to talk with Wright and Reyes in one-on-one situations, like we had done the previous 4 spring trainings. While that big smile was still plastered on Jose’s face most of the time and that quiet confidence still appeared prevalent in David’s demeanor, you could tell neither looked quite as content as they had in years past. Considering all that is going on around them with this crippled franchise, can you blame em?
Lets start with Reyes. The big story obviously is that this is Jose’s last year of the current 5-year contract he signed on August 3, 2006. Reyes is slated to make $11 million this season before entering free agency in November. Sandy Alderson has stated publicly that he doesn’t expect to discuss a possible extension with the Mets leadoff man this spring. To me, saying this is just cover for revealing what is actually going on: The Mets are broke and there is no way they could even entertain paying Jose what he is actually worth on the open market right now. As for Reyes, this is what he had to say a few weeks ago before heading down to Florida for camp
“I want to focus on playing baseball and do my job to help this team to win. If that’s the case, I prefer talking after the season, so when I’m going to be a free agent. But right now what is in my mind is playing baseball and focus and stay healthy on the field and try to help this team win a lot of ballgames You know, this is my first time I’m going to be a free agent. So I don’t know what’s going to happen, to be honest with you.”
This sounds like a guy pretty damn eager to hit the market. Can you blame him? I know he has a long injury history and at points his work ethic has been questioned, but you have to believe there will be a number of teams knocking down his door this fall offering a figure with a lot of zeros in it. In fact, when we interviewed him a week ago in the Mets dugout in St. Lucie, Tom asked him, “How does $100 million sound?”. For the first time in their chat, Jose’s face lit up and he gave us one of his signature grins and said something to the tune of, “Sounds pretty good to me.”.
The guy is still only 27 years old, is one of the best base stealers in the game, plays the shortstop position at a Gold Glove level and would add enormous energy to any clubhouse he inhabited. He is going to have a ton of suitors and if the Mets ownership situation continues to fester and they are unable to lock him up to an extension soon, don’t be shocked if they deal him away before the July, 31st trade deadline. When/if that happens, it will be one of the saddest days in the history of this franchise. A home-grown talent, cast aside because the owners were such lousy businessmen, they couldn’t afford to keep him.
Now onto the face of the franchise, David Wright. After a horrendous 2009 campaign in which Wright hit only 10 homers and drove in 72 runs in the new cavernous Citi Field, and took a Matt Cain fastball to the head in August which put him on the shelf for a few weeks, David rebounded nicely last season. Wright smashed 29 HR while collecting 103 RBI. His average did drop over 20 points to .282 and he saw a big spike in his strikeout total from the past season (140 to 161). By the end of the season though, his level of frustration in post game locker room sessions was tangible. You could tell that the state of the team and its continuous losing ways the past two seasons were getting to him.
When we spoke to the five-time all star after the Mets workout concluded last Wednesday, to me, he seemed much more subdued than he did in past interviews. Last year, we were able to convince him and Jeff Francoeur, his best buddy on the team, to do an interview together. They joked, laughed and razzed each other through the whole 10 minutes Tom had them on camera. The year before, David – not us – convinced Carlos Beltran to come sit next to him as we were interviewing him in the Mets dugout. They showered each other with praise in that interview and smiled a lot.
This time around, Wright was a solo act with Tom and he didn’t say a whole hell of a lot in the six minutes we spoke with him. There were many political answers on the state of the roster in general, the holes in the starting pitching staff, and especially the tenuous financial situation surrounding the Wilpon’s. I could be totally off here, but David looked and sounded like a guy who had had just about enough of the New York Mets organization and the negativity swirling around the franchise. Of course he would never that, the good soldier he is, but that is what I read from his body language.
Wright has two more years left on the deal he signed on August 6th, 2006. A club option of $16 million exists for the 2013 season. The Mets obviously want him as their poster boy and clearly, at 28 years old, he still has numerous productive seasons left in him. That being said, if the team continues to lose and the ownership situation drags on, I could see David Wright in another uniform by the time he reaches his 30th birthday. Hard to fathom I know, but not out of the realm of possibility. If somehow, the Mets get new owners within the next 7 months or so (Please lord, make it true), say…..Mark Cuban, maybe Wright could be coaxed to stick around.
Next up on the docket in my “Reflections” series, I’ll discuss Ike Davis and the impact I expect him to have in his first full season in the bigs.