Maybe this is it for David Wright. After playing just 75 games over the past two seasons and just 16 percent of the Mets' games since being diagnosed with spinal stenosis in May 2015, he is now out for at least a couple of weeks with an impingement in his right shoulder that prevents him from throwing a baseball.
This isn't meant to be a eulogy, but consider the following: Wright, a seven-time All-Star, hasn't hit .300 since 2013, hasn't hit 20 home runs since 2012 and has reached 500 plate appearances just twice in the past six seasons. General manager Sandy Alderson said this latest injury is part of the process of recovering from surgery, which Wright underwent last June to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Publicly, the Mets are treating this as a minor setback.
Unfortunately, given Wright's history and age -- he's now 34 -- this injury has to be viewed with grave concern. His ability to play third base at an acceptable level was already an issue, given his poor defensive metrics in limited time the past two seasons, including an unacceptable minus-8 defensive runs saved over just 36 games in 2016. Throwing problems would only exacerbate his lack of range.
With all of that on the table, the Mets entered 2017 with multiple contingency plans at third base. Jose Reyes, a longtime shortstop who started 50 games at third last season, is the best bet to take over as the starter, although he struggled a bit there defensively and his bat projects as only fringe-average for a third baseman. Wilmer Flores needs to play regularly against lefties after hitting 11 home runs in 100 at-bats against them last season while slugging .710, best in the majors. Maybe that's a platoon scenario with Reyes or one at first base with Lucas Duda or Jay Bruce (who has been taking grounders in the infield with Duda sidelined after receiving cortisone shots in both hips on Sunday).
If the season-long prognosis for Wright turns even more negative, the Mets should consider Todd Frazier. The Chicago White Sox would love to trade him in his final season before he hits free agency but were unable to do so this winter, primarily because the other playoff contenders are set at third base. Frazier hit 40 home runs last year, but with a .225 batting average and .302 OBP as he became seemingly a bit too obsessed with trying to hit everything out of the park. Still, with solid defense, he was a 3.4-WAR player, and he projects as at least a two-win upgrade over Reyes. With Frazier, Reyes becomes a valuable asset as the backup infielder, and Flores is freed up to become a lefty killer at first base and off the bench. Frazier also would add some defensive stability to a team that might already be pushing things in the outfield with Curtis Granderson in center and Bruce in right.
Wright once said, "I take great pride in going out there and playing through pain." Unfortunately, his body hasn't been able to hold together, and if his career does continue, it's likely to come with pain. Wright has four years remaining on his contract, for which he is owed $67 million. The Mets might actually be better off if Wright is unable to play, allowing them to collect on the insurance on his contract, similar to what happened last season with Prince Fielder and the Texas Rangers.
The writer of The Captain's Blog tweeted Wednesday that Wright "has become the Mets' Don Mattingly, though I don't think Mets fans appreciated him as much." I don't know if I agree with that. I live in Connecticut and know Mets fans, and they certainly still have a strong affection for him, even as the injuries piled up. Plus, let's be honest: If Twitter had been around when Mattingly averaged 10 home runs per season over his final six years, he would have been eviscerated at times as well.
There are obvious similarities, of course, starting with the over-the-top nicknames Donnie Baseball and Captain America. Neither has won a World Series, although Wright at least played in one. Most notable, of course, is that both were on Hall of Fame paths before injuries.
In his first four full seasons, ages 22 to 25, Wright averaged .311/.394/.534 with 29 home runs and 112 RBIs. He was one of the best all-around players in the game: power, walks, average and defense, and he even stole 34 bases in 2007. The Mets reached Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006, and Wright might have won the MVP award in 2007 if the Mets hadn't folded down the stretch. Don't blame Wright, however; he hit .352 with 20 RBIs in September and ended the season with a 17-game hitting streak. They blew another division lead the following September. Again, it wasn't Wright's fault: He hit .340/.416/.577 in the final month.
When he was entering his prime, Wright looked like a perennial MVP candidate. Instead, he battled inconsistency. The Mets moved into Citi Field in 2009, and whether Wright got psyched out by the big dimensions -- which have since been reduced -- or just had a bad season, he slugged just 10 home runs. His power returned in 2010, but the strikeouts rose and the batting average dropped. He suffered a stress fracture in his back in 2011 and hit .254 in 102 games but rebounded to finish sixth in the MVP voting in 2012 and hit .307/.390/.514 in 2013.
After a breakout season in 2006, Wright had told Men's Health magazine, "There are so many players out there who are better than me talentwise. But I like to think I'll outwork all of them."
That modest attitude made him a fan favorite in Queens, and Wright certainly made the most of his talent. Again, this isn't meant to be a eulogy, and I hope he can make it back, but you have to wonder how much ability remains in that cracked and crumbled body.