Commentary

Is Wright's time in N.Y. winding down?

With the Mets headed for a rebuilding stage, the face of the franchise should want out

Updated: April 22, 2011, 9:00 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Playing for one team for an entire career is exceedingly rare these days, and getting rarer each year, given the money available in free agency.

Derek Jeter should go wire-to-wire as a Yankee. Chipper Jones should start and finish as a Brave. But how many players younger than 30 years old -- with the possible exceptions of Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, who both now have decade-long deals -- will finish in the same city they started?

For the longest time, David Wright appeared in that category, too. He grew up rooting for the New York Mets' Triple-A affiliate, which was located for four decades in his hometown of Norfolk, Va. And he will always be paid a premium over his skill level for being the face of the franchise, like Jeter is with the Yankees, at least as long as the Wilpons retain ownership control.

In fact, Wright played in his 1,023th game Thursday night, homering in his second at-bat to snap a career-high 0-for-20 drought, and contributing to a 9-1 win against the Houston Astros. He already only trails Ed Kranepool (1,853) for the most games played as a Met without ever appearing in another team's uniform.

Yet with the Mets neck-and-neck with their 1962 counterparts for early season futility in spite of Thursday's victory, the inevitable talk of rebuilding arises. And the chatter on the airwaves about considering dealing Wright has intensified, since he would yield more than any other player on the roster. It is a far more extreme suggestion than considering the trade of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran or Francisco Rodriguez -- because those players are in the final years of their contracts.

Truth be told, Wright should probably want out, though.

And there is certainly no assurance he would not depart of his own volition as a free agent when he is eligible after the 2013 season, which seemed inconceivable only a few years ago.

Wright turns 29 next offseason, not exactly ancient. But if the Mets do dismantle and commit to rebuilding, he will be into his 30s by the time the team truly is a threat again. The Mets will have wasted much of the prime of his career.

[+] EnlargeDavid Wright
AP Photo/Kathy WillensDavid Wright has been with the Mets' organization his entire major league career.

That is not to suggest Wright has not been a contributor to the Mets' struggles. Yet the failing has been on the organization's part -- depending too much on him in recent seasons, and not surrounding him with players who can protect him and take a turn carrying the team.

There is a prevailing organization opinion that Wright cannot be the primary person to shoulder the load, at least not if his production is to be maximized.

The bottom line is this: If Wright swapped places -- and pressures -- with Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria, for example, Longoria's stats very well would take a hit and Wright's slumps would be shorter and his production greater. After all, it cannot be disputed that playing in New York and facing the questions and negativity on a regular basis prolongs struggles, can it? Well, Wright tried to dispute it.

"I'm sure Evan Longoria cares," Wright said. "And I'm sure he puts pressure on himself. I'm sure he goes out there and cares just as much -- whether he plays in Tampa or whether he plays in New York. I don't know him, but I would assume.

"For me, pressure doesn't come from outside. Pressure comes from me. If I was playing independent ball, if I was playing wherever, I'd put a lot of pressure on me to do well. It doesn't matter where I play. The pressure is going to be there from within, not from the outside. You don't think if the same thing [0-for-19] were to happen playing in a different market that I wouldn't feel the same way?"

Well, no.

Of course, Wright dryly adds about playing elsewhere considering the dimensions of Citi Field compared with the Rays' stadium or anywhere else: "I might get a few more home runs."

While it is difficult to envision Wright ultimately getting traded, he understands uncertainty exists.

"I understand I don't control that," he said. "I can go out there and try to play well. I can do whatever I can. But at the end of the day, I'm not the one making the decisions where I play."

That's true for now. At some point, though, the control will shift to Wright. He is owed $15 million next season, with the team holding a $16 million option for 2013. After that, Wright will be eligible for free agency.

"Ideally I'd like to get to that 10/5 guy. That would be ideal," Wright said, referring to the MLB rule in which a player who has played 10 years in the majors and five years with the same team earns the right to veto any trade, which he would achieve by remaining into the 2014 season.

"I understand we've struggled. I understand that there are a lot of questions surrounding a lot of different things. I can't answer very many of those."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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