Last offseason, during the winter meetings, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson made it clear that he was not in the market for a third baseman. The declaration came even after a season in which the Mets got only 37 games out of David Wright.
Instead of treating third base as a glaring hole, the Mets lined up a low-cost alternative in Jose Reyes, all while hoping Wright would be standing there on Opening Day.
Eight months later, Alderson sounded a different tone about the team’s plans for third base. The Mets GM stopped short of declaring that he would pursue a third baseman this offseason, though he also didn’t brush aside the idea as forcefully as he had last winter.
“That’s something that we’ll look at as those opportunities arise and present themselves,” Alderson said before Wednesday’s Subway Series game against the Mets.
“We’re always looking to get better. At the same time, I think we have to recognize the reality of David’s situation and we have to plan around that, as we have over the last year or so. That doesn’t answer your question but that’s as good as I can get.”
Wright, 34, has yet to step on a big league field this season. The closest he came was playing in Grapefruit League games. Those forays ended early, partly because of right shoulder weakness that kept him from throwing.
“Obviously,” Alderson said, “David Wright is a question mark.”
As Wright rehabs in hopes of a return by season's end, his body remains ravaged by a degenerative back condition and the aftereffects of neck surgery to repair a herniated disc. Even if the Mets’ captain comes back this season, it may do little to alter the Mets’ plans.
“This is probably a condition that needs to be managed rather than one that could be cured or corrected,” Alderson said. “So, I think that I’m not sure anything in the short-term is going to give us the complete answer. I know he wants to get back on the field before the end of the season and we’ll see if that happens.”
An answer will need to come by the offseason. The Mets will be retooling after a disappointing year. Third base has been a hole. Though Alderson said they have not “played terribly” at the position, the Mets are 10th in the National League when measured by wins over replacement (plus-1.5).
“Now, as we go into 2018, do we build on what we learned in 2017 and act accordingly and consider moving David to another position that sort of thing?” Alderson said. “That’s all something that has to be evaluated as we get into the offseason.”
Wright began the season with four years and $67 million remaining on his deal. Insurance has covered a portion of his salary this year. Under the terms of the plan, Wright’s salary is 75 percent covered once he’s spent 60 consecutive days on the disabled list. The coverage stops once he’s activated and would not resume until he spent another 60 straight days on the DL.
Wright’s contract represents a significant chunk of payroll. But this winter also presents an opportunity, with Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas on the free agent market.
For now, Alderson said Wright believes a comeback this season remains realistic.
“He certainly thinks it is and I’m not going to sit here and tell him or you that it’s not,” Alderson said. “Again, I think we just have to see. It hasn’t been a straight-line progression. We know that. And it may not be the rest of the season so it’s hard to know.”
Alderson said he doesn’t foresee Wright opting for retirement.
“I don’t see that in the cards,” he said. “That’s a judgment he’ll have to make.”
With David Lennon