David Wright’s Trade Value: Perceived vs. Reality

Two weeks ago, if someone had put a gun to my head and asked me if David Wright would still be a Met on Opening Day, without hesitation I would have said yes. Now I’m not so sure. After reading about a Wright trade rumor here on MMO that I initially was skeptical about, I now cannot deny how the buzz and talk surrounding Wright has ramped up since then – even hitting the MSM – all while the Mets financial situation deteriorated exponentially in the last few weeks. I won’t comment on the validity of it all, but instead I’d like to share a couple of opinions along with my own on what exactly David Wright’s trade value is.

One of the rumors that got a lot of attention was a proposed Phillies swap that saw them trading their top prospects outfielder Domonic Brown and starting pitcher Vance Worley coming off a phenomenal rookie season, plus reliever Phillippe Aumont (2.32 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) for the Mets third baseman. Another rumor had it has a simple Wright for Brown exchange which most Mets fans (including myself) would have probably scoffed at. But it’s always interesting to see what the other side thinks if only to add some perspective to any debate.

The Good Phight, a top Phillies site, made a case against acquiring David Wright when rumors surfaced about a possible Domonic Brown swap last week. He charted out Wright’s declining trends:

They concluded the following:

  • David Wright can’t field anymore. He’s terrible. While advanced defensive metrics are imprecise, in Wright’s case he’s put up terrible numbers for three straight years from both of the leading measurement systems.
  • His strikeouts are way up. We all know that striking out a lot isn’t necessarily such a bad thing, because you can make up for it by walking a lot and hitting a lot of homers. But Wright’s sharp increase in K’s hasn’t been accompanied by any corresponding increase in walks or power. If anything, his power has gone down over the same time.
  • Citi Field isn’t the explanation for the drop in offense. wRC+ is a park-adjusted statistic. Plus, why would hitting in a bigger ballpark increase your strikeouts anyway? Nor is the MLB-wide downturn in offense the explanation. wRC+ is also league-adjusted.
  • David Wright Is probably worse than the player he’d replace, Placido Polanco.

Some very harsh realizations on the data which for the most part is very difficult to argue away.

Lets take off our Mets blinders for a minute. If David Wright was named John Doe and played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, would you consider trading three prospects including your best one to get him?

While you ponder that one, consider also what Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation had to say on Wright as he was no less kinder:

I’m not sure about the Brown-for-Wright swap…Wright just isn’t the player he used to be.

What’s really interesting about Wright is how his hitting and his fielding flipped at exactly the same time.

In 2008, Wright was +44 batting runs and +5 fielding runs.

In 2009, Wright was +23 and -10.
In 2010, Wright was +25 and -11.

And in 2011, worse than ever: +11 and -11.

Wright played only 102 games in 2011; if he’d played more, the batting runs would have been better, the fielding runs worse. Presumably.

I won’t suggest that Wright can’t again become a brilliant player…But the trend is clear, and between his performance and his age and his salary, you simply can’t trade three good young players for him. Which is why the Phillies certainly wouldn’t do any such crazy thing.

Now whether you’re for or against trading Wright, it seems that Mets fans are at odds with just about everyone else as to how valuable David Wright is.

One thing the Mets have playing against them is that they will certainly have less leverage than any other team they negotiate with based on the following mitigating factors:

  1. The enormity of the Mets’ financial distress is no secret and everyone is aware that they may be forced to shed even more salary than they have already.
  2. It’s hard to ask the world for a player who has essentially been a shell of his former self and will turn 30 at the end of the 2012 season.
  3. The team option for 2013 can be voided by David Wright if he is dealt, essentially making him a one-year rental.

David Wright is beloved by the majority of Mets fans, there’s no mistaking that. But one thing we learned from how the Jose Reyes drama played out, it’s that ultimately the decision will be financially motivated and what the fans think won’t matter regardless of what the Mets tell you.