David Wright’s health issues have been well documented. Now, after playing just 75 regular season games over the last three seasons, Mets fans seem to have two schools of thought: Either be patient with Wright while he wrestles with his baseball mortality, or eagerly encourage the seven-time All Star to retire.
In the debut edition of Queens Crossfire, T7L’s Brian Erni and Tim Fitzpatrick debate how the franchise should proceed with their captain…
Tim Fitzpatrick: To me, the Mets enter this offseason in a similar situation as last. Last winter, it seemed like they has enough in-house options to get by in spite of Wright’s health issues. Bad season notwithstanding, I still feel like that’s the case. It's possible to afford Wright every opportunity to return – a luxury he has certainly earned with his loyalty to the franchise – while not curtailing the youth movement.
Brian Erni: I’ve said this on Orange and Blue Thing a ton before: It’s hard to decide for someone when their career should end. David is by far and away one of the best and most important players in this franchise’s history. He had every reason to bolt when his contract was entering his last season, and signed an extension with the club anyway. He’s an absolute treasure, personally and professionally, and I don’t think anyone else in a Mets uniform should ever wear number 5 again. That’s why it makes this difficult to say: I don’t know if the Mets can afford to stay in this holding pattern.
TF: Really? That surprised me to hear. You’re a huge Wright guy.
BE: I love him. He’s one of my favorite players of all time. And listen, if he can come out and be even a productive bench player for this team, it would make me smile from ear to ear. I’m rooting so hard for him to get back on the field. However, the reality is they’re completely handcuffed on what they can do this offseason.
TF: Well, they do have T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores as the guys currently on the roster who could fill in at third, assuming they decline the one-year, $8 million option on Asdrubal Cabrera. Couldn’t Sandy just add free agents at second base and first base to make up for the question mark at third, if Wright seems hell bent on giving it another shot on Spring Training?
BE: Do you really want to block Dom Smith, who hit nine homers in 49 games (and plays plus defense)? Let’s presume you’re going with Smith and Amed Rosario at first and shortstop. Where are you really going upgrade?
You’re looking at a Flores/Rivera platoon at second, Cabrera at second and third, provided Wright can’t go (which is why I think the Mets will pick up Cabby’s option, which is only a $6 million investment since it carried a $2 million buyout). Then you’re looking at Yoenis Cespedes in left, presumably Michael Conforto in right (if healthy) and a Juan Lagares/Brandon Nimmo platoon in center?
TF: I still think there’s a way to add a piece that wouldn’t block Smith. I know it’s a light free agent class, but Todd Frazier is a guy who can play both 3B and 1B. His 2017 stats (27 HR, 76 RBI, .213/.344/.428) aren’t great, but he played a better after his trade to the Yankees, and he hit 40 home runs a year ago. Maybe a move back to the NL could do him some good?
If Wright is unable to make his comeback, Frazier slots in at third next season and allows Smith to play full-time at first. If Wright can play, a platoon at first with Smith and Frazier still gets Smith plenty of at-bats. Wright will almost certainly need plenty of days off, so Frazier can spell him at third. The day-to-day lineup construction could get complicated, but it has potential.
BE: And that sounds like a perfectly logical plan, but are you confident that they’re going to make that kind of investment? Outside of signing a guy like Frazier or Mike Moustakas to play third, or looking toward the outfield and overpaying Lorenzo Cain to play center, I don’t see any quick fixes you can make as this team is currently constructed. And if Conforto’s injury drags out and he’s out until June or something, then you have Lagares in center, Nimmo in right, with the mish mash on the infield? Where are the runs coming from?
TF: And the idea of leaning on the youngsters would be decidedly un-Mets of them. But assuming the pitching staff is significantly healthier than it was in 2017 (how could it not be?), the defense (improved by Rosario and Smith) is solid, and the offense proves to be even mediocre, that could be enough to get the Mets back to the postseason, or at least keep them afloat until they can acquire some help at the deadline. If Wright can contribute, great! If he's unable to make a comeback, a trade deadline move could improve the offense in preparation for a playoff run.
BE: It boils down to the fact that, while they’re getting 75 percent of his contract money back on insurance, I just don’t see a situation where the Mets are paying Wright $20 million and go invest in a multi-year, big money deal to have a backup plan. Would you really be surprised if the lineup looks like this come Opening Day: Nimmo 8, Cabrera 5, Cespedes 7, Conforto 9, Rivera 5, Smith 3, Rosario 6, d’Arnaud 2, Syndergaard 1? You think that can compete with the Nationals, Cubs, and Dodgers?
TF: It doesn’t feel like a world-beating lineup, does it?
BE: Not really. Now, if the Mets want to go out and make a trade for a big corner bat, or have some secret plan to give the moon and the stars to Manny Machado in one year’s time, then maybe I can live with this. But coming off a 92-loss season, it certainly feels like we’re going to be sitting around in April praying that the pitching staff stays healthy and the offense scratches across enough runs. Is it fair to pin that all on Wright’s shoulders? Absolutely not. But the fiscal reality is that I think it’s certainly a huge factor, and it’ll hold the Mets up this offseason.