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Palladino: Signing David Wright A Must For Mets

(credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

(credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

According to a published report, the Mets are working on a long-term extension for David Wright, to be offered perhaps at some point during the summer.

While that fails to create cause for any eyebrow-raising, even in light of the $16 million option the Mets have on their third baseman for 2013, it comes as an interesting juxtaposition of the present and this time last year.

Remember the talk then? It was almost a daily topic of conversation as to which player the Mets would trade come midseason, Wright or Jose Reyes. Or would they simply keep them both until season’s end and let Reyes go in free agency?

As it happened, Reyes wound up leaving, signing a $106 million deal with the Marlins in the offseason. Suddenly, he wasn’t the must-keep that many believed he was.

Certainly, Mets GM Sandy Alderson believed Reyes would go for the big money. And with the Mets cutting back their budget by $50 million thanks to the Wilpons’ financier friend who is now luxuriating in federal prison, they were in no position to sign Reyes to a huge number, only to face another big number by picking up the option on the 29-year-old Wright.

So Wright, one of the two faces of the franchise in 2011, is now the only face of 2012.

Still, the Mets could end up losing him. The last thing they want is to be on the hook for that big option and watch him walk after 2013 as a free agent with not even a Class A prospect or a case of resin bags coming back to them. So it is imperative that Alderson work out a long-term deal.

If Wright wants to play hardball, though, the Mets could be forced into trading him.

Doesn’t sound bad, especially if it brings a star position player and maybe a starting pitcher in return. But for a franchise beset by the bad publicity over late-season collapses and legal issues springing from the Bernie Madoff fiasco, it appears management must avoid losing their handsome and productive poster boy. Especially one who has proclaimed often that he likes playing in New York and would love nothing more than to stay here.

Wright has certainly earned his keep so far this year. Manager Terry Collins just three days ago praised his approach at the plate this year, indicating that he has a renewed sense of the importance of each individual at-bat, no matter what the game situation.

The right-handed hitter is swatting balls to the opposite field, an adjustment that accounted for his league-leading .400 BA heading into last night’s game with the Brewers.

They could use more power out of him, as his four homers seat him just behind team-leader Ike Davis’ five. Then again, the whole Mets roster could use a little shot of power juice, as their 23 total homers rank 26th among major league clubs.

He does get on base though, as that percentage stands a league-high .489 among regular starters.

More than anything, though, the young Mets could use the leadership Wright provides, not only in the locker room but on the field.

Franchise players are hard to come by. Right now, even Johan Santana doesn’t fit that mold with his 1-2 record and recent injury history.

The Mets once had two of those people in Wright and Reyes. They’re down to one.

If and when Alderson lays an extension in front of his third baseman, be it in the summer or early in the offseason, it had better be a fat one.

The Mets can’t afford to let their lone remaining franchise-type player — their face — walk away.

How many years — and how much money — should the Mets offer Wright? Be heard in the comments below…