Commentary

Healthy Wright could actually hurt Mets

David's return may mean a playoff push -- and preempt a much-needed firesale in July

Updated: June 24, 2011, 9:39 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Finally, the New York Mets got good news on Thursday.

Or did they?

Injured third baseman David Wright was cleared to start baseball activities. That means Wright, on the 15-day disabled list with a lower-back stress fracture, could be back in baseball shape after rehab and be ready to play again after the All-Star break.

"He's going to have to exercise, progress to full baseball activity and then play in games," general manager Sandy Alderson said after the Mets' 4-1 victory over the Oakland A's at Citi Field. "We're still talking about a several week process.

[+] EnlargeDavid Wright
AP Photo/Paul J. BereswillIf David Wright's return turns the Mets into contenders, it could mean the team holds on to Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez at the trading deadline -- instead of cashing in when they can.

"But it is good news from the standpoint that he's been given the green light."

Wright wasn't available for comment after the game. He's flying to Port St. Lucie on Friday. There, he will begin full exercise activity. He has to get loose and rework some muscles before he can swing a bat or start taking grounders again. "So this could still be some period of time," Alderson said.

On one hand, the Mets have to be happy with the possibility of getting Wright back, especially if they can stay in the wild-card race the next few weeks until his return.

And with the way their pitching has performed, they have an honest shot at doing so. Mets starting pitchers have complied a 2.62 ERA over their past 27 games. Starters have allowed three runs or less in 22 of those 27 games.

That kind of pitching and a healthy and productive Wright would only help their chances of pulling off a miracle and making it to the playoffs in a season most thought was doomed before it even started. Before the injury, Wright was batting a paltry .226 with six homers and 18 RBIs. He can't return playing like that.

And through it all -- the terrible start and all the injuries -- the Mets (37-38) have been able to hang around .500 and stay in the playoff hunt mathematically. Fans have had a reason to feel optimistic about the Amazin's thus far.

On the other hand, Wright's return might tie Alderson's hands and force the Mets to roll the dice and not move any players before the July 31 trade deadline, including Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez.

Fans would not be happy to see their team deal talent away in the midst of a push for the postseason. The outcry would be loud and angry, for sure.

But if the Mets aren't able to get some young players via trades, it would set back this must-do rebuilding process. The Mets have to change the pieces and culture here. That's why Alderson was hired, not to leave things as they are. Things have mostly gone wrong here the past seven, eight years.

Hence, it's easier to make the necessary moves if the team falls back and isn't playing well. Not that the organization would root for the team to lose. That makes no sense.

It's just that the worst thing that could happen to the Mets is that they hang around all year, only to fall short of qualifying for the postseason.

The Mets would be in a bad spot after the season, especially since they could lose their biggest bargaining chip to free agency and just get two draft picks for Reyes. That non-move would be a big blow to the Mets.

And even though Reyes says he wants to play his entire career with the Mets, the chances of him staying aren't good. The Mets have money issues. If Reyes continues his career-best season -- he's still leading the National League in hitting at .338 after getting two more hits Thursday -- some team might be willing to open the bank for him and offer up Carl Crawford-type loot.

Still, it was always supposed to be about Reyes and Wright. Reyes has done his part and more. Now, they are waiting on Wright to contribute and convince everyone not to break up the band. Reyes had this message for Wright before he left for his trip to Florida: "There's nothing to do down there. Get well soon, man, because we need you here."

All in all, the Mets are, indeed, happy that Wright can move forward. "No matter how expected it was [good news], it was nice to get it and I know he's excited about it, too," Alderson said.

Only time will tell if Alderson will be happy after the trading deadline.

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