Mets can't buy their way into NL East relevancy with just David Wright and his $138M

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – David Wright re-became a New York Met here on Wednesday morning. He wrestled into a disobedient blue jersey, a new look for the franchise. He patiently curled the orange brim of a new cap and, two-handed, pulled it snug on his head.

His new contract is for $138 million over eight years. Their past, their present, is their future. Every penny of it, every day of it.

Wright was, as always, the picture of hope. He's young and eager, at 29. He brought his mom to the news conference. He introduced his girlfriend, Molly, with a gentle nod. He stood with one arm around the general manager and the other around the owner's son, brightly smiling through the last click and flash.

He spoke with clarity of the promise ahead, his hands gripping the lectern, his voice running thin at the appropriately emotional parts.

You want to put a man at the end of failure, on the front end of another shot at relevance, he might as well be David Wright, even if he had a hand in the failure, even if the responsibility of relevance can't be all his.

These are the new Mets, a lot like the old Mets, now six years without a postseason game and unable to escape fourth place in the NL East, but first to a semi-happy winter meetings podium. Their offseason strategy beyond Wright appears to be to hard-line their 20-game winner or trade him for something younger and cheaper. The outfield is soft, the bullpen needs arms, and the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves are better.

[Related: Red Sox reboot this offseason to improve toxic clubhouse]

There's still a long way back. Maybe Matt Harvey is ready for 200 big-league innings and Zach Wheeler isn't far behind. Maybe Ike Davis is the second-half guy and not the first-half guy, and they've got a catcher in there somewhere, and Frank Francisco can be a lot more consistent. And maybe that new national TV money will make the Wilpons whole again, which would go a long way toward making the Mets whole again. Maybe all that would mean they get off the fourth-place treadmill, which would have rolled steady without Wright as well as with him.

The point is, buying out most – if not all – of David Wright's career is fine. He looked good up there. He'll look good come April. But the Mets won't rediscover relevancy if the endgame is a young, charismatic third baseman and a temporarily sated fan base.

Wright said it was important for him to understand the goals of the franchise before he jumped in for another eight years. He had to have faith in ownership. You know, you gotta believe, and all that.

"As we've said from the beginning, we're not going anywhere," Jeff Wilpon said Wednesday. "Very stable. Very stable. We have a plan. We're going to move forward this year."

[Related: MLB free-agent tracker]

Payroll is rising, he said. It will increase again next season, he said. They'll hold to Sandy Alderson on the baseball side, and cling to hope they'll be acting big-market again soon.

"Of course," Wright said, "that was the first question I asked. I asked as many tough questions as I could."

The answers, apparently, were good enough. They had better be. Because on their own a big contract, a news conference and a new jersey are only worth fourth place.

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