David Wright proud to return to Mets

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- None of the most notable players in New York Mets history has played his entire career with the franchise.

Tom Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds midway through 1977, while en route to a 21-win season. Nolan Ryan landed with the Angels in an all-time notorious trade for Jim Fregosi. Even 1986 World Series heroes Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry finished their careers with George Steinbrenner's Yankees.

David Wright, who grew up rooting for the Mets' Triple-A affiliate in his native Norfolk, Va., was determined to be the exception. Now he has the contract to realize the goal of being the Mets' equivalent to Cal Ripken Jr., Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter.

After an intense 12-hour negotiation period that included three conference calls in which he participated, Wright agreed to an eight-year, $138 million contract early last Friday that will keep him under Mets control through 2020.

Wright joined Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, general manager Sandy Alderson, manager Terry Collins and other team officials for a celebratory dinner Tuesday night at The Palm in Nashville, home of the winter meetings. The Mets held a formal news conference Wednesday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

"It wouldn't mean as much winning somewhere else as it would, obviously, winning here," said Wright, who was joined at the press conference by his father Rhon, mother Elisa and girlfriend Molly Beers. "I grew up watching Cal Ripken Jr., playing against Chipper Jones for these number of years, being across town from Derek Jeter.

"I think there's something to be said for that. And I'm very proud of that -- to be able to be drafted at 18 by this organization, groomed, developed, make your big league debut with your favorite team growing up, having the opportunity for my friends and family to almost start bleeding blue and orange. It was a no-brainer for me. And it was very important to be able to finish what I started."

Wright's contract technically is the largest in Mets history. The previous record holder, Johan Santana, was awarded $137.5 million over six seasons, making the left-hander's contract worth $5.67 million more in average annual value.

To surpass Santana's total, Mets officials also are including the $16 million Wright already was owed in 2013 as part of the new package.

Wright's new deal actually reduces his salary next season in order to give the Mets more payroll flexibility.

Wright, who saw ex-teammate Jose Reyes get traded to Toronto after the first year of a contract signed with the Miami Marlins last December, received a full no-trade clause from the outset of his deal. That protection would have kicked in anyway midway through the 2014 season, since Wright will have accumulated 10 years of major league service time, all with the same organization.

Wright likely will formally become the team's first captain since John Franco early next year. Wilpon and Wright both said the "C" will be placed on Wright's uniform, assuming teammates grant their blessings during spring training.

"I think David already is the captain," Wilpon said. "It doesn't need somebody to say you're the captain.

"What David has shown is leadership without having to have a 'C' on his chest, or somebody having to name him captain. I think what Terry and Sandy and I have talked about is if the players come in spring and say, 'Hey, listen, we really want David to be the captain, and be named the captain,' then I'm sure Terry will bring that back and we'll do something like that."

Wright already holds franchise records for hits, runs scored, RBIs, doubles, walks and total bases.

One notable milestone he does not already possess -- games played – now should ultimately end up his as well. Ed Kranepool logged 1,853 games in a Mets uniform during a career that spanned 18 seasons, beginning from the Mets' inaugural season in 1962. Wright, who turns 30 on Dec. 20, has appeared in 1,262 games as a Met.

While Wright is now under the team's control for eight more seasons, the Mets have plenty of work ahead this winter. They are trying to negotiate a contract extension with reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, who is under contract to the club for next season at $5 million.

The Mets also desperately need help in the outfield -- where the current starting three would be Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter. They need upgrades at catcher and in the bullpen as well.

Wright met with Wilpon in Miami for a late-night burger during the Mets' final series of the regular season. He then golfed with Alderson in the third baseman's native Virginia shortly after the season. During both occasions, Wright said, he needed to be convinced the Mets had a plan going forward to return the team to competitiveness after a fourth straight losing season in 2012.

Wright said Alderson's details were specific -- future payroll projections, prospects in the pipeline, and free-agent targets for years to come.

"It was not only going through some of our prospects and some of our minor leaguers player by player, but also what our needs are -- what he plans on giving to get these needs," Wright said. "Obviously without going into too much detail, it was an important conversation."

"I think he wanted to be a Met," Alderson said. "I think he wanted to be convinced."