VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The reality is that David Wright does not know if he will ever be a productive Major League Baseball player again. He does not know when, or if, he will next see the field. He does not know what his future holds, if there is even any future left for him as the Mets' third baseman.
"It really hurts to say this, but I obviously can't be relied on to go out there and do what I've done throughout my career," Wright said Friday, before hosting his annual Vegas Night to benefit the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Virginia. "That is a tough thing to say."
The past three seasons have been a nightmare of surgeries and setbacks for Wright, a seven-time All-Star whose career arc turned abruptly downward after doctors diagnosed him with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column, in 2015. The following year, Wright underwent neck surgery.
Entering 2017 optimistic about his health, Wright wound up electing for two more operations: one to repair the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, then another to remove bone spurs, a ligament and a herniated disk from his lower back. He did not appear in a single game.
"The surgeries are obviously serious stuff, but it just kind of plays with your mind mentally, where you don't know how your body's going to hold up," Wright said. "You don't know how you're going to feel a month from now. You don't know how you're going to feel a couple weeks from now. You're hoping that it continues to get better, but you just don't know.
"Everything is a concern for me. I haven't progressed to the point where I'll know how it feels to throw a baseball until we get closer to spring. I certainly don't know how the back is going to hold up."
The Mets still owe Wright $47 million over the next three seasons, though they have recouped tens of millions already through an insurance policy on his contract. Asdrubal Cabrera, not Wright, is currently slated to start at third base for the Mets this season.
When pressed for details about his next steps, Wright demurs. In the months after undergoing his latest back surgery in October, Wright met biweekly with Dr. Robert Watkins, the Los Angeles specialist who has overseen his rehab since 2015. Wright more recently went for a checkup with Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek, the details of which he was unwilling to discuss. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson promised to provide an update in late January.
Since last spring, Wright has shied away from interviews, seeking privacy at Citi Field when media members are present. He prefers not to discuss his health because he does not have concrete answers. He also mourns for a career that has seen him appear in just 75 games the past three seasons, the most recent of those occurring 20 months ago.
"When it's kind of taken away from you abruptly, unexpectedly -- I didn't have any physical ailments my first however many years," said Wright, who debuted in 2004 and is the Mets' franchise leader in hits, doubles, RBIs and walks. "I thought that was just going to be the way it goes. Then all of a sudden you hit a speed bump, and then you miss a year and a half. You take for granted how much you enjoy it until you can't do it anymore."
The breaking point, Wright says, will be if doctors tell him that continuing to play can damage his long-term quality of life. Wright's outlook beyond baseball remains robust; he and his wife have a growing family and philanthropic ambitions. They expected approximately 400 people to attend Vegas Night, which a "beyond proud" Wright has used to raise roughly $1.3 million for the children's hospital to date.
But because that conversation has never happened, Wright still itches to return to the field. When asked about those who believe he should simply retire, Wright says he understands the notion, but disagrees.
"I don't want to have regrets," Wright said. "If I can't play? Then I'll be able to say I gave it my best shot, I really did. And if I can play, which obviously is the goal, then that's great as well. And that's ideal. I just don't want to have any regrets when it's all said and done that if I would have just put in some more work, or if I would have just concentrated a little more on the rehab program, I might have been able to do it.
"When the end comes, the end comes," he added. "Hopefully, I've got a little more left. But I guess that's to be determined."