To start, Zimmerman is two years younger than Wright. Because he never signed a long-term deal early in his career, as Wright did, Zimmerman was able to milk more money by waiting until age 28 -- smack in the middle of his physical prime -- to sign, even though his extension will not kick in until age 30. Wright, by contrast, could be as old as 32 when he inks his next deal, on the wrong side of his own prime years. The likelihood of him receiving anything more than a four-year deal at that point seems remote.
That situation stems from the fact that Wright signed a six-year, $55 million extension as a 24-year-old back in 2006, with a seventh-year option for $16 million -- the type of deal that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson calls a "first-generation" free-agent contract, as opposed to the more common "second-generation" deals for free agents with at least six years of service time.
Compared to Zimmerman's pact, $55 million may not seem like much. Had Wright not signed that deal, he would have been a free agent after the 2010 season and likely would have signed a contract even more lucrative than Zimmerman's, guaranteeing him more total money over the course of his career. But such is the risk that many stars take to ensure lifetime security at a young age.
"You're talking about a kid from Virginia, working middle-class being offered that kind of money when you're  years old," Wright said. "It's a no-brainer for me. So if I had to do it all over again, I'd do the same. I don't play the game to make every single dollar that I can."
On the field, Wright and Zimmerman share more than simply position and division. Good friends since their childhood days in AAU ball, both are proven middle-of-the-order hitters coming off injury-plagued seasons, with Wright featuring sharper overall hitting skills and Zimmerman offering better defense.
Zimmerman's contract did reset the market for third basemen, especially ones as similar to him as Wright. But differences exist and much can change in two years, meaning Zimmerman's deal is not a perfect barometer. For his part, Wright said he does not anticipate approaching the Mets to talk extension any time soon, preferring to let the team come to him. Assuming the Mets pick up his option year, Wright can become a free agent after the 2013 season.
"This stuff takes time," Wright said. "You don't just come up with this overnight. We haven't approached the Mets and the Mets haven't approached my side, so it's kind of status quo."