NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cuddyer frequently hears from longtime pal David Wright in the offseason, often about potential trades in their fantasy football leagues.
Once the World Series was over, Cuddyer got a call from the New York Mets captain about another kind of possible swap. A few calls, actually — once a week, then once a day, then more than that.
“I’m pretty sure I annoyed him,” Wright said Tuesday.
The sales pitch worked, though Cuddyer said Wright didn’t need to press too much. Cuddyer became the first top free agent to switch teams since the season ended, leaving Colorado and joining the Mets on Monday for a $21 million, two-year contract.
Cuddyer said the lure of being on a team “eager to win,” moving closer to his home in Chesapeake, and the chance to play alongside Wright made his decision easy.
“I believe the time is now for us,” Cuddyer said on a Mets conference call.
Cuddyer, who turns 36 in March, and Wright, who will be 32 next month, have known each other since they were teenagers playing in Chesapeake. As Cuddyer began his path toward the big leagues, he kept in touch with Wright and helped guide him.
They’ve played racquetball and worked out in the offseason for years. When Wright was captain of the NL team for the Home Run Derby during the 2013 All-Star festivities at Citi Field, he picked Cuddyer to be on his side.
Now, they’ll be together for more than just one game.
“I’ve been a huge fan,” Cuddyer said. “I’m excited to call him a teammate.”
Echoed Wright: “He’s a winning player. I think he’s one of the more underrated players in the game.”
Cuddyer won the 2013 NL batting title and also is considered a clubhouse leader. On and off the field, Wright said, “it’s a perfect fit for us.”
Cuddyer has mostly played right field, but said he’d be glad to play left. Curtis Granderson was the Mets’ main right fielder last season, and he’s also said he’d be fine to switch sides.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said getting a quality corner outfielder was the team’s “highest priority” in the offseason. He said the Mets will look at their situation at shortstop, where Ruben Tejada hasn’t done much lately.
Because the Rockies made a qualifying offer of $15.3 million to Cuddyer, the Mets lose their first-round draft pick in June. Alderson said knowing Cuddyer would cost them the 15th overall choice made the Mets consider the signing for a bit longer, but that “pause didn’t last very long.”
If a deal with the Mets had not worked out, Cuddyer said he would’ve taken that one-year offer from Colorado.
Cuddyer hit .332 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs this year. He played only 49 games and was on the disabled list three times with a strained left shoulder and a strained left hamstring.
Cuddyer said he felt “outstanding” these days and pointed out all three DL trips were the result of getting hurt on specific plays. Nothing chronic, nothing lingering, he said.
“As long as I stay away from those plays, I’ll be all right,” he said.
The Mets went 79-83 this year, their sixth straight losing season since moving into Citi Field. They’re trying for their first playoff spot since 2006, led by a strong rotation boosted by the return of ace Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery.
Cuddyer said the Mets’ staff “sells itself.”
“I’ve faced them,” he said.
NOTES: The Mets agreed to a minor league contract with OF Alex Castellanos and invited him to big league spring training. The 28-year-old played in Triple-A last season for San Diego. He briefly was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012-13.