David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
The last time David Wright signed a contract extension with the Mets was during August of 2006, and considering the team's history of rarely, if ever, doing such business in the middle of a season, it came as a bit of surprise.
The reason was not. Wright, a promising homegrown star, already was living up to his potential in helping the Mets steamroll through the National League East that summer.
Life was good. And it only got better for Wright, who passed on arbitration and his first shot at free agency by signing that six-year, $55-million contract.
The Mets envisioned the same type of scenario this time around. A little bit of drama-free negotiating behind the scenes, and then -- voila! -- prep the Caesar's Club for the obligatory news conference. All summer long, team officials remained confident Wright's deal would get done shortly after the season, maybe even before the World Series.
But now that Wright is sitting on a seven-year offer from the Mets, as sources said Tuesday, and one that is expected to be in excess of $130 million, this discussion is no longer about money or years. It's about to become a conversation involving whether or not Wright truly wants to finish his career in Flushing.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. If Wright is unsatisfied with the direction of the Mets, who these days are a big-market team by zip code only, then he has every right to play out his $16-million option -- in Queens or somewhere else -- in the pursuit of an even bigger check in 2014.
That's a difficult decision, and a big roll of the dice, given the risk of injury. But even if Wright stays with the Mets, they are at least another year and likely two away from contention. Six years removed from his only playoff appearance, does Wright, who turns 30 next month, want to wait out the rebuilding process?
It's a question that R.A. Dickey, even at age 38, couldn't fully answer. Dickey was in New York again Tuesday for his second city appearance of this offseason -- Wright has stayed out of the public eye -- and hedged when asked about the Mets' efforts to improve to this point.
"Well, I'm not sure," Dickey said. "I don't know if it's heading in the right direction. We'll find out soon."
In Dickey's mind, much of that hinges on extending Wright, and he said the two have talked 'regularly" since the season ended and Dickey claims to possess some insight into what may keep Wright with the Mets.
"Without publicly talking about it, I can tell you that I know his limitations," Dickey said, "and I'm watching what those are, sure, as far as a contract goes."
But he also added, "I want to be part of this place seeing brighter days and I think David's in the same boat. We're both in it to win."
There's nothing Sandy Alderson can say or do to guarantee that, however. Despite gaping holes in the outfield, a serious power void in the lineup and a shaky bullpen, the Mets' payroll isn't expected to go much above $95 million for 2013.
It's taken a while to get here. Longer than anyone involved in the process probably imagined. But now that the Mets and Wright have arrived at this point, what's left to say? The Nationals and Rays wasted little time securing their franchise third basemen, and there's no sense dragging this on with Wright.
If the two sides can't agree by now, then the Mets need to start making some contingency plans, especially with the winter meetings set to begin Monday in Nashville. There's always the possibility that Wright could have a new deal wrapped up before then, but either way, like any relationship, this one needs to know where it's headed.