David Wright last appeared in a major league game on May 27, 2016. Now there is news that the captain hopes to be cleared by doctors to begin baseball activity within days.
Still, the 34-year-old Wright clearly faces an uphill battle to return to the majors, much less be a meaningful contributor again. And Mets officials need to work under the assumption that Wright will be a nonfactor in 2018 and beyond.
Officially, Wright has been sidelined this season with an impingement in his right shoulder. However, his medical history has a pair of far more significant issues.
Wright underwent surgery on June 16, 2016, to repair a ruptured disk in his neck. That might not limit him once he returns. More ominously, though, the spinal stenosis in his lower back is a chronic condition that ultimately figures to prematurely end his career. Remember, Don Mattingly had to retire because of that back issue at roughly the same age.
The good news for the Mets is that Wright's $20 million contract in 2017 is not the anchor it could have been. The Mets should be recouping 75 percent of the amount owed for the duration of Wright's contract -- unless he returns to the majors, which would then restart another 60-day deductible period if he again became sidelined.
Wright's contact runs through 2020. He has salaries of $20 million in 2018, $15 million in 2019, then $12 million in the final year. By then, unfortunately, he figures to be a full-fledged team ambassador rather than on the field, although no one doubts his determination to get back to the majors, at least for a last hurrah.
Last offseason, the Mets had a viable internal hedge in case Wright could not contribute. Jose Reyes was under contract at the major league minimum and available as a low-cost fallback, even if that hasn't panned out ideally.
Next offseason, the Mets will need to be far more aggressive in bringing in an external option for third base -- unless Asdrubal Cabrera's $8.5 million option is picked up and he is moved to that position, which hardly seems the likelihood at this point.
In fact, assuming Amed Rosario mans shortstop but Neil Walker departs as a free agent, the Mets arguably might need to bring in two external infield starters. That is, unless they deem Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera, or Gavin Cechinni ready to serve as one of those starters.
Since it's never too soon to start considering the options, the upcoming free-agent class of third basemen should include Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier, Yunel Escobar, Trevor Plouffe, and Danny Valencia.
Adam Rubin (Facebook | Twitter | Contact) has covered the Mets since 2002. He previously worked for the Daily News and ESPN. He also serves as assistant athletic director for strategic communications at NYIT. He is a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the University of Pennsylvania.