NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Mets general manager Sandy Alderson did not waver on Monday when he said the club is banking on David Wright to be the starting third baseman next season.
Wright has played a total of only 75 games in the last two seasons because of spinal stenosis, a degenerative back condition, and surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, but Alderson said he is “definitely on track” to begin baseball activities later this month. Wright has been in California with various therapists and Dr. Robert Watkins, the specialist who has helped to oversee his treatment.
Alderson stayed away from making any pronouncements about how many games Wright is expected to play, but he made it clear that the Mets — who have a contingency plan in Jose Reyes — still view Wright as their primary third baseman.
“I think he’s committed to being as good as he can possibly be,” Alderson said on Monday at baseball’s annual winter meetings. “But I think he also recognizes that he needs to modify his training program to ensure that he can be available as often as possible. I think we saw that last year before the neck injury arose, but that was in connection with his lower back.”
Wright, 33, still is owed $67 million through the 2020 season. He hit .260/.365/.436 with 12 homers in 289 at-bats the past two seasons, but his capacity in the field has been diminished.
“I think he’s realistic about what he needs to do and how he’s going to keep himself in shape,” Alderson said. “Then the question is how that translates into performance and his ability to stay on the field.”
The Mets already have alternatives lined up to help cover for Wright if necessary. Wilmer Flores has played third base and Neil Walker has expressed a willingness to move there if needed. And there is Reyes, who manned third base last season and could turn into a super-utilityman next season.
Alderson mentioned the possibility of experimenting with the switch-hitting Reyes in the outfield, perhaps even in centerfield. He could receive some time in the outfield during spring training. Said Alderson: “Jose will get plenty of at-bats.”
The Mets continue to gauge interest in outfielders Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson. Sources said both have garnered inquiries from multiple teams, though Granderson has been more sought after while the Mets prefer to trade Bruce.
Alderson would not specify which player has been more popular in trade talks. He indicated that the Mets aren’t looking to cover salary in a deal, a common tactic for teams that want a better player in return.
Bruce is owed $13 million and Granderson is owed $15 million in 2017, the final year of each player’s contract. Moving both would help the Mets get the payroll back to last season’s level of about $140 million.
“The only thing I can say now is we’ve had a number of meetings today with a number of teams on a variety of topics,” Alderson said. “So at this point in the meetings, we haven’t focused in on any particular type of transaction.”
Notes & quotes: The Mets promoted Double-A Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez to manage Triple-A Las Vegas. Lopez takes over for Wally Backman, who left the organization . . . The Mets have expressed interest in free-agent reliever Brad Ziegler, a source confirmed. The Mets hope to acquire a righty and a lefty to fill out the bullpen and have been meeting agents for relievers. With the price for relievers rising, the Mets have begun canvassing the market for bullpen arms with big-league experience who are willing to take minor-league deals.