The Wright Amount
When Evan Longoria inked his contract extension last week, many thought that the new money of six years and one hundred million dollars set the market for David Wright’s extension. Longoria’s obviously more talented and younger. So based on that, Wright at most should get the same extension, right? Wrong. Longoria set the market for Wright, but not the way you think it did. Free agent contracts (and also extensions that avoids free agency) are not given based on future potential production. I wish they were. We all wish they were. They’re offered more as lifetime achievement awards. Do you think Albert Pujols got his ten-year deal based on what he’ll produce through age 41? No, he got it based on what he did produce through age 31.
For Longoria’s career, he’s put up a .276/.361/.516 slash line against Wright’s .301/.381/.506 line. Advantage Wright. To put it in further perspective, Wright’s one of only five players to maintain a .300/.380/.500 slash line with a minimum of 2,500 plate appearances since his debut in 2004 (Longoria has 2,726 career PAs). The others are Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, and Matt Holiday. Any way you slice it, that is pretty incredible. Manny Ramirez also satisfies the criteria, but he tested positive for PEDs. Twice. Ryan Braun falls just short with a .374 OBP, but his statistics are in question, as well.
Wright also has an element of speed to his game that Longoria does not, which offsets Longoria’s defensive edge. There’s also the playing time factor. Wright’s been a workhorse. With the exception of his broken back in 2011, Wright’s played at least 154 games in all but one season since his first full campaign in 2005. That exception is his 2009 season, in which he played in 144 games after missing time late in the season due to his beaning. Longoria, on the other hand, has missed significant playing time the last two seasons, missing 117 of his team’s games. Durability is a question.
I have no doubt Longoria is a better player than Wright, and I’d be comfortable saying he’ll have the better career from this point forward. But based on the way MLB hands out contracts, Wright deserved more. Longoria’s deal did set the market for Wright, but not the way you think it did.
Life After R.A. Dickey
It’s been reported that there’s a significant number of teams interested in trading for Dickey, and some of those teams have some very interesting pieces that would help the Mets. I’m on record saying that I wouldn’t think twice about offering Dickey a $36 million extension over three years and would even add a fourth option year. The Mets seem to think that they won’t need to offer as much to get a deal done, which would be even better. But we all need to consider the rotation without Dickey if he is indeed traded for catching and outfield help.
About a month ago, I e-mailed some MMO colleagues to gauge their interest in Dan Haren for the Mets as part of a potential Crossfire piece. No one disagreed with me, hence, no article. Haren was, up until last season, one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. From his first full year in 2005 through 2011 he averaged 34 starts and 226 innings, pitching to a 3.49 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and a 4.3 K/BB ratio. He did that splitting time between the American League and a hitter’s haven in Arizona. But in 2012, the last guaranteed year of his contract, lower back issues led to his worst major league season. The Angels tried to trade him to the Cubs, which fell through, and then they declined his $15.5 million option.
Haren’s been on my radar for years. I was very vocal about the Mets trading for him when he ultimately ended up in Anaheim. Despite his injury and down year last season, there’s a lot to like. Firstly, he’s 32, so I can’t believe he’s already washed up. The injury is significant, and I’m not suggesting a long term deal, but his track record is enough for me to believe there are no arm or leg issues that may surprise me. Secondly, the back issue was with him from the beginning of the season, and he pitched through it before finally landing on the DL. Upon his return, he made every scheduled start, and over those 13 starts, he looked like the old Haren. He posted a 3.58 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and a 4.0 K/BB ratio. His final eight starts of the season looked like a return to the Cy Young contender he’d previously been (2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 41 Ks to only five walks!).
He finished the year on a very encouraging trend and the fact that his option was declined pretty much ensures he’d make no more than $12 million in 2013 and probably slightly less, which is more or less what the Mets would be paying Dickey. If Dickey were to be traded, I’d love to see Haren on a one year deal with an option, which gives the Mets sole discretion on whether he’s part of the team in 2014. If his back proves not to be problematic, his 2014 price could be very appealing on an exercised option. And if he flames out, he’ll put no more strain on the 2014 payroll than a measly $2 million or so buyout. If Haren were agreeable to, say, a two year deal for $20 million, I’d be inclined to guarantee that second year only because of the way he finished 2012, and even add a third year via option.
Scratching the Free Agent Itch
The Mets are in need of some outfield help, and names such as Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross and Angel Pagan have been bandied about. But I think the most appealing option may not have to travel far to Citi Field. Most recently a Yankee, Ichiro Suzuki provides just about everything the Mets are looking for in one player. A defensive standout in right field, Suzuki would allow Lucas Duda to play left field and give Kirk Nieuwenhuis a break covering center, and would provide a traditional leadoff bat with very good speed and off the charts baseball IQ.
Ichiro comes with the stigma of being a significantly below average hitter overall the last two season, but did show new signs of the life with the Yankees, putting up numbers more in line with his career norms. The change of scenery did him good. Ichiro is old, has lost a step and is not a long term solution, but neither are any of the other outfielders not named Josh Hamilton or Michael Bourn. And none of the other options provide Ichiro’s defense, speed and leadoff capability. Ichiro could be signed on a one year deal for around $7-$8 million. There’s the chance that the Mets might have to up it to $10 million to convince him to sign with a team whose playoff hopes in 2013 ride on too many “ifs,” and that would give me pause, but it’s certainly a situation worth looking into and pursuing.