Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/27/12
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This morning, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Mets offered David Wright a six year, $100 million extension, noting that it was an offer that Wright was sure to refuse. After all, the term sof the extension are basically equal to what the Nationals gave Ryan Zimmerman, and he was coming off a mediocre season and was two years away from free agency. Evan Longoria got a six year, $100 million extension from the Rays yesterday, and he was four years away from free agency. If the Mets want to sign Wright, they’re going to have to do a lot better than that, right? Well, yes and no. It’s unlikely that Wright is going to sign for 6/100. He probably should get more than Ryan Zimmerman did. But, at the same time, we have to recognize that the offer isn’t that far away from what a reasonable extension for Wright should look like, and the ground to cover isn’t as large as it might sound at first glance. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a decent amount of contract extensions for players headed into their walk years, and in general, so there’s a pretty well established market price for quality players one year from free agency. Player Years Dollars AAV Joe Mauer 8 184 23 Matt Kemp 8 160 20 Adrian Gonzalez 7 154 22 Cole Hamels 6 144 24 Matt Cain 5 112 22 Andre Ethier 5 85 17 The average worth of these deals is $21 million per year over 6.5 years, so if we think Wright is somewhere around the middle of this group in terms of value, then market price should be something closer to 6/130 or 7/150, not accounting for any inflation. And in that light, the Mets offer looks relatively weak and kind of insulting. But, there’s a bit of a catch here. In Kemp’s case, the eight year deal actually bought out one final year of arbitration, and began immediately rather than beginning the following year. Coming off his monster 2011 season, Kemp was set to make something like $20 million in 2012 regardless of whether he agreed to a long term contract or not. Counting the first $20 million to Kemp is akin to counting the $16 million that Wright is due in 2013 under the terms of his old contract – that’s money that is going to the player regardless of how negotiations turn out. If we drop Kemp’s extension number to 7/140, that puts him essentially in line with Gonzalez and Hamels. These guys are all a clear step ahead of Ethier but also a big step below Mauer, so we can focus on the comparables between those two outliers. And, unfortunately for Wright, those guys were all a bit younger when they went to the table looking for a new deal. Kemp signed away seven free agent years that covered ages 28-34. Gonzalez signed away seven free agent years that covered ages 30-36. Hamels signed away six free agent years that covered ages 29-34. Wright’s not going to be eligible for free agency until age 31, so he’ll be a year older than Gonzalez was, two years older than Hamels was, and three years older than Kemp was. A seven year deal for Wright would cover his age 31-37 seasons, and none of these guys got their age 37 season covered by their extensions. This brings us back to the Ethier, who was also selling free agent seasons that began at age 31. He only got five years, going through age 35. We just don’t have a lot of precedent for teams offering up extensions that both pay market rate prices into a player’s late 30s. If Wright is looking for that kind of deal, then he has to start comparing himself to guys like Joey Votto or Ryan Braun, and he’s simply not at that level in terms of sustained greatness. If Wright is dead set on seven years, then the trade off is probably a somewhat lower AAV than the rest of his comparables. If he wants that $20-$22 million per year salary, then he’s probably looking at six years, not seven. In that light, the Mets 6/100 offer isn’t totally absurd. It’s low, but if the fair ending point is somewhere around 6/125 or 7/135, then opening at 6/100 and negotiating up from there isn’t lowballing with an intent to drive the player away. Andy Martino has already added that the Mets were willing to go for a seventh year at “well in excess of $100 million”, so it sounds to me like the Mets aren’t too far off from a fair ending point. Given the Kemp/Gonzalez/Hamels contracts, it seems unlikely that he’s going to get much more than $150 million, and given his age, there’s a decent case he should probably take a bit less. If the Mets are already in the 7/120 range — which is where simply adding an extra year to 6/100 would put them — then the gap here doesn’t seem unbridgeable. Obviously, we don’t know what the Mets exact offer is at this moment, and we don’t know what Wright’s agents are asking for in order to get a deal done. But, given the reported offers made and the types of contracts that these players have signed in similar situations over the last few years, there’s no reason for 6/100 to be viewed as an insult. It’s a starting spot to get to a logical middle ground. At something in the 7/130 range, the contract could be a win for both sides, and it’s just not that big of a leap to get from 6/100 to 7/130. Whether or not the Mets should extend Wright is another question entirely. When I wrote up the decision in September, only 22.5% of the voters said they favored an extension. There’s still a strong belief that rebuilding clubs should trade away their best players in an effort to restock the farm system when they don’t appear to be on the cusp of contention. I disagree with that line of thinking, and I don’t think the Mets are really all that far off from being a viable contender. If Sandy Alderson can get Wright signed for something in that 7/130 range, then in my view, it’s a deal worth doing.
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