Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Evan Longoria's extension might already be changing the negotiations of the Mets with their own third baseman
On Monday, Evan Longoria signed an extension that will keep him a member of the Rays from ages 27 through 36, and possibly longer if his option is picked up. The deal didn't have to happen for another few seasons, as the Rays held options on Longoria through 2016. The 2013 campaign was his final guaranteed year, though, so you can understand why Longoria would be willing to trade potential money for an extra nine guaranteed seasons at $130 million, not six at $100 million.
David Wright and the Mets have taken a different approach, and the third baseman is now just one season from free agency. Wright's $16 million club option is all that's left of the six-year, $55 million contract he signed with the Mets in August of 2006, and the third baseman is looking to get paid. The Mets reportedly offered Wright, who is three years older than Longoria, a six-year, $100 million extension that would make him a free agent the same time that Longoria's guaranteed contract ends. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who reported this offer, Wright is likely to decline the offer.
For Longoria, the raise is not slight. The jump to an average annual value of under $17 million on the new six years introduced by the extension is significant when compared to the $4.5 million he pulled in for 2012. You can't necessarily compare the $11.5 million he was slated to make in 2016 to the AAV of the extension, as he wasn't guaranteed to make that: It was an option year, just like 2014 and 2015. While it's very likely Longoria would have all of those options picked up, if his career swallowed itself like that of Eric Chavez, a similar superstar in his own right at the same age, then the cost-conscious Rays and everyone else in the league could have been far less willing to pay up for Longoria once he became available.
With Wright, there is no such reasoning to accept the jump to nearly $17 million per year. That's in part because his 2013 option pays him about $700,000 less than what the extension would on a per year basis. The intent here is not to belittle $100 million over six seasons, which is a sizable sum that only a handful of players attain, but to point out that guaranteeing $100 million to someone who is years away from being able to get it is different than offering the same sum to someone who is oh-so-near to pulling in much more.
This doesn't mean the Mets are going cheap on Wright, intentionally low-balling him in order to make it appear as if they are invested in negotiations, but planning to trade him or let him walk. This was the Mets going with the established market price for third basemen, offering the older Wright a contract similar to Longoria's, as well as that of Ryan Zimmerman, whose six-year, $100 million contract with an $18 million option for 2020 starts in 2014. Wright is the eldest of the three, the one closest to leaving his peak, and the least defensive-savvy of the bunch, so this isn't an insulting offer to him so much as it's market value.
If Wright declines, then it's clear he thinks he's worth more than what the market is currently dictating. And he wouldn't necessarily be wrong, either: Those same factors cited above, Wright's being in the league longer and his being closer to free agency, also mean he's in a different market than either Longoria or Zimmerman. The latter two signed deals while still under team control, with Zimmerman signing an initial contract that bought out his arbitration years back in 2009. That was followed by his extension that was signed prior to the 2012 season, two years before free agency, and Longoria's situation -- four years before free agency -- you already know about.
Wright has just the one season left. If he isn't traded before the season, his trade value could diminish, as a new club could no longer give him the qualifying offer and receive draft pick compensation should he bolt. This would give the Mets more incentive to sign him long-term if they aren't satisfied with receiving an extra sandwich-round pick in return for a cornerstone piece, and from that alone, Wright could get more than what he's been offered to this point. This is simply the first offer, one that Wright's camp could counter. And who knows, maybe this deal that Wright is "certain to decline" isn't that far off from what he actually wants. Maybe another $20 million over the same time frame will do the trick, or a seventh year, either guaranteed or with an option, will be enough.
There's no reason for the Mets to throw in all the chips on their first offer to Wright, just as there's no reason for Wright to automatically agree to the first deal on the table. Wright's free agency has essentially begun already, with the Mets getting a very lengthy and exclusive negotiating window. How they plan to use that is still up in the air, but today's offer is unlikely to be the end of the discussion.