Wright advises Mets' brain trust at Meetings
Captain serving as sounding board for Van Wagenen, front office
LAS VEGAS -- David Wright has found a new role, at least temporarily, now that his playing days have come to an end.
Wright is at this year's Winter Meetings on the invitation of general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who asked the longtime third baseman to attend as a sounding board for the front office. In Las Vegas, Wright is spending time with team officials who are discussing, among other things, trades involving J.T. Realmuto and Noah Syndergaard. Having played against the former and alongside the latter, Wright can offer a unique perspective on those and other ideas.
Wright is also one of the longest-tenured members of the organization in any role, joining the Mets as a first-round Draft pick in 2001.
"David is about as special of a guy as you can have," Van Wagenen said. "We're building this organization around people. I want to have people who can give me insight into what's important in a teammate, what's important in bullpen arms that he's faced, what does he want to see in lineup construction. So he's an invaluable source for me to be able to give me a perspective that I never want to lose touch with, which is the player perspective."
It remains to be seen if this will blossom into a longer-term advisory role for the Mets. Since playing for the final time in September, Wright has spent most of his time at home in Los Angeles with his wife and two young daughters. He has shown little interest in coaching or television opportunities, though that could change as time passes.
Technically, Wright is still on the Mets' 40-man roster. The team is negotiating a deal with its insurance company that would allow it to release Wright, who is still owed $37 million over the final two years of his guaranteed contract. The Mets are recouping around 75 percent of that total through insurance, but they must keep him on the active roster to continue collecting that money. They may be able to pay the insurance company a premium that would allow them to free up a 40-man spot.
The Mets' all-time leader in hits, runs, RBIs, doubles and many other categories, Wright has played in just 77 games the past two seasons as back, neck and shoulder injuries forced a premature end to his career.
The Mets' recent trade for Robinson Cano made Jeff McNeil a man without a defensive home. According to manager Mickey Callaway, that isn't likely to change anytime soon.
Callaway said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings that McNeil won't challenge Todd Frazier for the everyday third-base job, and that he'll instead vie for backup time at as many as six different positions. Among those are shortstop and the corner outfield, which McNeil played on an extremely limited basis in the Minors last season.
"I think you're going to get to see him in the lineup often," Callaway said, noting that starting shortstop Amed Rosario and Frazier will both receive regular rest. "We want his bat in the lineup. He can hit. He's going to put the ball in play."
Still, Callaway said he won't consider starting McNeil, who hit .329 with three home runs in 63 games as a rookie, over Frazier, who batted .213 with 18 home runs.
"As we stand here," Callaway said, "Todd Frazier is going to be standing at third base and getting the opportunity to continue to earn that position."
Lineup taking shape
Assuming Brandon Nimmo isn't included in an offseason trade, Callaway said Nimmo will lead off for the Mets and Cano will hit third. Nimmo is an obvious choice to bat first for the Mets after posting a .404 on-base percentage last year.
"Nimmo was our ideal leadoff hitter," Callaway said, calling the Mets' late-season use of Rosario in that spot a developmental tool. "Starting a new season, Nimmo needs to be leadoff."
Those lineup preferences make it more important for the Mets to acquire a right-handed bat this winter, lest they stack three consecutive left-handed hitters -- Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Cano -- atop their lineup.