In New York, the Mets have spent the offseason trying to hammer out a new contract extension with the face of the franchise, third baseman David Wright. But in Tampa, the Rays may have offered a useful template in their successful efforts to retain their own homegrown star at third base, Evan Longoria.
According to sources, Wright is still mulling the Mets' latest offer, believed to be an extension of at least seven years that will be worth somewhere in the range of $130 million.
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But as talks move forward, the Mets might take a cue from the structure of Longoria's six-year, $100-million extension with the Rays. Longoria's new deal is backloaded, steadily progressing from the $6 million he's owed next season to the $19.5 million he's guaranteed in 2022. Also, according to the Tampa Bay Times, the deal includes $11 million in deferments that begin in the later years of the contract.
For the small-market Rays, those wrinkles provide a bit of financial flexibility, a luxury that could also benefit the cash-strapped Mets.
For one more year, bloated contracts will hold the Mets payroll to roughly $100 million. However, adjusting the structure of a potential extension with Wright also could give the team more financial leeway in later years. Whether those later years include Wright may hinge on his confidence in the team's ability to execute their rebuilding plan.
Wright's long-term fate remains up in the air, even with the Mets squarely in the middle of a critical negotiating period heading into next week's winter meetings.
For the second straight day, one of Wright's teammates likened his stature with the Mets to that of Chipper Jones.
"I know he wants to be what Chipper was in Atlanta," Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese said Wednesday. "He is the face of the franchise and he wants to be a part of it throughout his whole career. You've got to respect a guy like that . . . I know the love he has for the city. And how he wants to be with the Mets organization his whole career. I would definitely be surprised if he wasn't."
Niese spent part of his afternoon Wednesday in Long Beach, where he became the latest Met to assist in ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. Niese helped distribute needed supplies and toured a church that is being rebuilt. "It's good to see everybody helping out," Niese said.
Niese will undergo an ablation sometime before Christmas to address his irregular heartbeat. The procedure is considered minor. He is also getting married in January. With David Lennon