David Wright wants to finish what he started with Mets
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- From the start of the process, David Wright took control of his own future, one now linked to that of the Mets.
Before talks for a new deal could begin, he needed to hear for himself the plan to make the Mets winners again. From two of the most important figures in the organization, he settled for nothing less than a clearly focused picture, even if it meant exposing the many blemishes.
"I got the answers I wanted to hear,'' Wright said Wednesday at the winter meetings, where the Mets announced his eight-year, $138-million deal. "And that's what kind of kicked things off.''
The talks unfolded over two months, crawling at first before wrapping up in a flurry of activity in the early-morning hours of Nov. 30. The Mets signed the homegrown star to a deal that should cover the rest of his career.
Wright wore a navy blue suit and a bright orange tie, the only two basic colors he'll likely ever wear on a big-league diamond. With his own future secured, he spoke in clear terms, reaffirming his status. "Is it OK if I call you Jeff now?" he joked, shooting a look at chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, who called Wright the team's de facto captain.
It's a title that might be formalized by teammates before the season. But even without a "C'' stitched to his chest, Wilpon said Wright has already displayed the qualities of a captain.
Wright expressed loyalty to Terry Collins, who is entering the final year of his contract, though he also stressed the importance of winning. He discussed the luxury of having Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, but sounded amenable to trading him for the right deal. He brushed off Fred Wilpon's infamous comments about Wright not being a superstar, perhaps easier now since he draws a salary that proves otherwise.
Perhaps that latitude was a natural extension of the negotiations, when Wright asserted himself through conversations that he called "brutally honest.''During the last series of the season, he joined Jeff Wilpon for a late-night meal in Miami. He peppered Wilpon with tough questions centered on the team's financial well-being.
"As we've said from the beginning, we're not going anywhere,'' Wilpon said, while assuring that payroll will climb in each of the next two seasons.
Early in the offseason, general manager Sandy Alderson visited Wright in Virginia, which became an important gesture. Over a round of golf and a late lunch, Wright pressed him for details of his plan to revive the Mets. "I think he wanted to be a Met,'' Alderson said. "I think he wanted to be convinced.''
When it came time to discuss contract specifics, Wright held out for more years. When satisfied, he said hashing out the dollar value was relatively easy.
The contract -- the largest ever given by the Mets -- was structured to give the club breathing room now and in the future. His 2013 salary goes from $16 million to $11 million, but will rise in 2014 before dipping in the final years leading to 2020, when he will be 38.
The change will immediately help the Mets boost payroll to roughly $110 million, about $15 million more than last year. Even with holes to fill on the roster, the Mets hope it's enough to compete as soon as next season.
"Financially, I didn't want to hamstring the organization,'' Wright said. "Because ultimately, it's all about winning.''