David Wright will enter the first year of his eight-year, $138 million extension with the New York Mets. What was it exactly that justified such a lucrative long-term deal? It could have been the four consecutive seasons of better than .300, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs but that memory is beginning to fade. It could just be that Wright is another one of the countless glorified ballplayers that should be counting their blessings rather than their millions. No, David Wright is a class act and although the price tag is high, he brings the intangibles to the field that separate winners from their peers. But because Wright’s most redeeming qualities don’t meet the eye, does this make him an overrated fantasy baseball player?
I won’t call the Mets “experts” at handing out contracts based on some of the messes they’ve made over recent years. Baseball experts couldn’t justify handing out a deal of this magnitude to a player that has averaged .290, 19 homers and 83 RBIs since the club moved into Citi Field in 2009.
However, in an era of advanced scouting, it’s impossible not to consider how Wright’s value transcends the box score.
Wright had been neglected by his ownership who called him less than a superstar and fans that allow inferior third basemen to start over their man in the all-star game. Perhaps it would have taken losing Wright to the New York Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies to truly gauge what they had lost. Wright is bigger than that, though. He stood up in his press conference and talked about how much the Mets organization and their fans meant to him, saying that winning anywhere else wouldn’t feel the same.
Wright is the last of a dying breed in baseball. Yes, he was paid handsomely but unlike most at his income level, Wright has stayed true to himself and his team. While you can put a price on .290, 19 and 83, you cannot put a price on loyalty, heart and drive that will one day be the cornerstone of a perennial playoff contender.
With that said, fantasy owners that wager strictly based on numbers should yield their expectations for Wright in 2013. Since the team moved across the parking lot to Citi Field, Wright’s home run, runs batted in and production as an elite fantasy third basemen have flat lined.
In 2006 and 2007, Wright’s last two seasons at Shea Stadium, he combined to average .335, 19 HRs and 59 RBIs at home. Meanwhile, in the first two seasons after the club’s relocation, Wright averaged .279, 9 HRs and 39 RBIs. When the walls at Shea were cleared, Wright left behind his home-field advantage and one of baseball’s prettier swings.
Wright failed to reach .300 at home again in 2012 even after the fences were moved in to help the struggling hitters. Without much changing in Queens this season, it’s hard to project a significant increase in production from Wright in 2013. It’s fathomable to think that he could even press at the plate with a big new contract to justify and insufficient help around him in the Mets lineup.
Wright is listed as the number two fantasy third baseman according to ESPN behind only reigning triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Those are awfully high expectations for a hitter is only beginning to find comfort in his home ballpark. The David Wright of old, .300, 25 HRs and 100+ RBIs, would have been worth such a large investment but until things start looking up in Queens, my confidence will remain elsewhere. I expect .290, 20 HRs and 90 RBIs from Wright and the likes of Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria and Hanley Ramirez to be better fantasy selections this year.