By Ernie Palladino
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This has been coming for a long time. But it wasn’t before this week that David Wright’s future at Citi Field finally ended.
Barring any medical miracles, the signing of third baseman Todd Frazier effectively brought an end to any usefulness Wright might have had to Mickey Callaway’s club. Not that Wright’s back and shoulder had any great value before the free agent signing. With pitchers and catchers set to report to Port St. Lucie on Monday, Wright still had not been cleared for baseball activity.
Now that Frazier has signed for two years at a Wilpon-friendly $17 million, the endless waiting and hoping for the former face of the franchise has ended. It appears those 75 games he played between 2015 and ’16 will be his last, at least in a Mets uniform.
The injuries — from surgery on a herniated disk, to a shoulder impingement, to the spinal stenosis that afflicts him now — ultimately will have done him in. Signing Frazier — a great and necessary move by general manager Sandy Alderson — simply puts the final touches on Wright’s tenacious but futile attempt to return to action.
The Mets no longer need him, not in any way, shape or form. In signing Frazier, they get a true third baseman who will allow them to step away from the Asdrubal Cabrera stopgap measure and plant Cabrera full-time at his preferred second base spot. That automatically strengthens the middle defense, as Cabrera and Amed Rosario create a solid double-play combination.
They lose nothing at third base. Frazier, four years younger than Wright at 31, plays well defensively, runs the bases and has the potential to hit between 25 and 30 homers per year. For a team that has lived and died by the home run the past three years, that’s a nice thing to have.
He’ll fit nicely alongside fellow free agent signee Jay Bruce in a lineup that also will feature Yoenis Cespedes and, eventually, a healthy Michael Conforto.
Off the field, Frazier has the potential to replace Wright as a franchise icon. He may not have the longevity Wright did. He probably doesn’t have enough years left to equal the seven All-Star appearances Wright made from 2006 to ’13. And no, he’s not as pretty of a face as the GQ-ready Wright.
But he does have a big personality. He’s from New Jersey, and he makes no apologies for his enthusiasm about playing back home after five seasons in Cincinnati and a season and a half with the White Sox. When he hit the Yankees locker room in that July 19 trade, he made himself right at home. He even originated the thumbs-down gesture, turning Mets season-ticket holder Gary Dunaier’s well-photographed exhibition of disapproval on its head to celebrate success.
Even the dower Dunaier gave the signing a thumbs-up.
Sadly, all of this leaves the Mets’ former icon, Wright, on the outside. He’ll still get paid the $47 million he’s owed through 2020, or at least part of it if he and the franchise come to a buyout agreement. He deserves that much for the class and competitiveness he brought to Flushing.
But for the hope of Wright ever being useful again, that’s an afterthought now. His body has given no one reason to believe that a year out of baseball preceded by three injury-wracked seasons out of his last four will ever allow him to play on a major league roster.
His time as a starter ended a long time ago. His days as a backup are dubious.
With Frazier in there for at least the next two years, the Mets can finally cut the emotional ties with Wright and move on.
Their third baseman has arrived.
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