The Mets announced this afternoon that they’ll activate third baseman David Wright from the 60-day disabled list for the final homestand of the 2018 season. Wright will come off the disabled list on Sept. 25, though he won’t return to a regular role.
Wright is currently slated to start at third base for the Mets on Saturday, Sept. 29, and it sounds as though that start could mark the final game of a brilliant career that was unfortunately cut short by significant injuries. Wright said that he cannot foresee a way to continue playing baseball in the future, given his current condition, calling the very process of playing baseball “debilitating” (Twitter links via SNY’s Andy Martino).
Mets players and coaches are on hand today for the press conference announcing the news, and Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets that Wright was quickly overcome by the emotion of the moment, telling his teammates: “It’s truly been an honor to take the field with you, and serve as your captain. To the fans, words can’t address my gratitude.”
That Sept. 29 start will mark the culmination of a rehab process for Wright that has spanned more than two years. He last took the field in early June of 2016 and has since been diagnosed with spinal stenosis in addition to undergoing both neck and shoulder surgeries. Through it all, “Captain America” steadfastly endured a grueling rehab effort as he endeavored toward his goal of a return to the Major Leagues.
While Wright, now 35 years old, won’t be coming back to the same Mets team that was defending an NL pennant the last time — far from it — he’ll be returning to the roster as one of the most celebrated players in Mets history. The 38th overall pick in the 2001 draft, Wright reached the Majors as a 21-year-old in 2004 and never looked back. He hit .293/.332/.525 through 69 games as a rookie, and not once in his career did he deliver below-average offensive production, by measure of OPS+.
Wright spent 13 seasons in the heart of the Mets’ lineup, reaching seven All-Star teams, winning two Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Slugger Awards along the way. He garnered MVP votes in six of those 13 seasons, finishing as high as fourth in the voting back in 2007. In 6869 plate appearances, all coming with the Mets, he posted a superlative .296/.376/.491 batting line with 242 home runs and 196 stolen bases. With a blend of power, speed and quality defense at the hot corner, Wright was a true five-tool player during a peak that was all too brief.
Wright also had the honor of representing his country in both the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics, collecting a memorable walk-off hit to push the U.S. into semi-final play in 2009 and launched a grand slam in 2013 as part of a huge tournament performance that earned him the aforementioned “Captain America” moniker.
To be clear, it does not sound as though Wright will formally announce his retirement. Newsday’s Tim Healey tweets that Wright, notably, did not use that word when describing his future, though he’s also been informed by doctors that his condition simply will not improve. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that, indeed, Wright will not formally retire but will not return as a player during his contract. Wright is still signed through the 2020 season under the eight-year, $138MM extension he inked in Dec. 2012. He’s slated to earn $15MM in 2019 and $12MM in 2020 on that front-loaded deal, and if he’s declared medically unfit to play — as will be the case — he’ll continue to be paid out those sums.
The insurance policy the Mets took out on that contract reportedly covers 75 percent of that salary for any time spent on the 60-day DL, so the Mets will only owe him a total of $6.75MM between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, barring a buyout agreement with the insurance company. The situation is reminiscent of that of Prince Fielder, whose career was similarly cut short by neck injuries that rendered him unable to continue playing.
Regardless of the financial details, Wright will go down as one of the best players in franchise history and will be remembered as one of the most respected players in the game during his time as a Major Leaguer. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon says that there will indeed be a discussion about the retirement of Wright’s No. 5 (Twitter link via the New York Post’s Mike Puma), though there’s no specific timetable just yet as to when that honor would be bestowed upon venerable team captain. For now, the focus will be on Wright’s last hurrah with the only team he’s ever known — on the emotional farewell that Wright will bid to the fans he’s cherished and the game to which he’s dedicated life.