The Pirates acquired Chris Stewart from the Yankees to serve as Russell Martin’s backup, but now the 31-year-old catcher is likely headed for surgery after injuring his knee in a game last week.
Stewart didn’t figure to play much for the Pirates considering he’s a career .214 hitter and Martin started 117 games last year. In his place 25-year-old former first-round draft pick Tony Sanchez will make the Opening Day roster and may end up seeing more action than Stewart would have if the Pirates don’t want to let him rot on the bench.
Sanchez’s prospect stock dipped a ton in 2011 and 2012, but the former No. 4 overall pick hit .288 with 10 homers, 26 doubles, and an .872 OPS in 76 games at Triple-A last season. Martin is an impending free agent, so the Pirates may try to groom Sanchez to take over behind the plate full time in 2015.
There’s no doubt that the last three years have put David Wright through the ringer. The Mets third baseman missed the bulk of his 2015 season with spinal stenosis and made it through a month of games in 2016 before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. In 2017, a bout of shoulder impingement, rotator cuff surgery and a laminotomy procedure on his lower back kept him off the field for all 162 games.
Despite the continual setbacks, Wright told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, he doesn’t believe retirement is in the cards for him this year. “When the end comes, the end comes,” he said Friday. “Hopefully, I’ve got a little more left. But I guess that’s to be determined.”
The 35-year-old last appeared for High-A St. Lucie in 2017, powering through three games with one hit and five strikeouts in 10 plate appearances. His career has advanced in fits and starts since 2015, but you don’t have to do too much digging to find his last great performance with the Mets. Wright earned his seventh career All-Star berth in 2013, slashing .307/.390/.514 with 18 home runs and a terrific 6.0 fWAR in 492 PA. While he isn’t expected to mash at those levels in the near future, if ever again, the Mets believe the veteran third baseman might still have something left in the tank as he tries to extend a 13-year run in the majors.
Per DiComo, the only thing standing in his way is a clean bill of health — not just for the upcoming season, but for the years to come. Wright said he wouldn’t risk returning to the field if it came with long-term implications for his quality of life.
The surgeries are obviously serious stuff, but it just kind of plays with your mind mentally, where you don’t know how your body’s going to hold up,” Wright said. “You don’t know how you’re going to feel a month from now. You don’t know how you’re going to feel a couple weeks from now. You’re hoping that it continues to get better, but you just don’t know.
Given the uncertainty that surrounds his return to the game, it’s a prudent outlook to have.