Jason Bay, one of the two premier free agent hitters along with Matt Holliday, has agreed to a four-year, $66 million deal with the New York Mets. Bay had rejected a four-year, $60 million offer from the Red Sox earlier during the regular season as well as during the offseason and his market never developed fully. After originally seeking a deal with a guaranteed fifth year with a value of nearly $20 million a year, Bay relaxed his demands once he realized that the market just wasn’t there. The Mets still tossed in a $14 million option as a fifth year for Bay pending that he reaches a certain number of plate appearances (avoiding serious injury). Including that year, the deal comes out to $16 million a season.
Considering Mark Teixeira received an eight-year, $180 million contract last season, Bay’s deal would seem to be a steal for the other New York team. Here is Teixeira’s stat line from 2008 before he signed that mega-deal and Bay’s stats from last season:
Those are pretty similiar statistics and Bay is only a year older than Teixeira was last season. The economy slashed contracts slightly, but the gap between Bay’s deal and Teixeira’s is still massive. The first reason is defense. Teixeira is a very good defensive first baseman while Bay is below-average for a left-fielder. In the cavernous Citi Field, Bay’s defensive woes will be more pronounced. On the offensive, playing at Citi Field will certainly bring down Bay’s numbers, especially considering Bay played in the friendly confines of Fenway Park last season. Add in the fact that Bay is a very streaky player and the Mets need a consistent bat and the deal does not look so great.
As a Red Sox fan, I saw firsthand Bay’s talent. 36 Home runs, 119 RBI, .384 OBP. Sounds like quite the catch, right? Well he struck out 162 times, good for fourth in the American League, and had just a .267 average. With his high number of walks, Bay makes up for his strikeout totals. However, consistency was what really troubled me as a Red Sox fan. Check out his monthly averages:
I want my star left fielder to hit well more than just the beginning and end of the season. As a cleanup hitter for Boston, Bay hit just .234. Teixiera spent most of the season at the three-hole and batted .293 there. This is why Bay’s deal is so much less than Teixeira’s deal. The two players aren’t in the same category. Bay is an All-Star. Teixiera is a superstar.
So what does it mean for the Mets?
It means that they have a very good left fielder for the next half-decade. With Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and now Jason Bay, the Mets’ lineup is one of the best in the National League. Of course, that is if they can stay healthy. However, besides Johan Santana, the Mets’ rotation is weak at best. Against the rest of the NL, New York can probably ride their bats to the playoffs and possibly further, but facing the likes of the Red Sox or Yankees pitching staff in the Fall Classic will prove very hard.
Speaking of the Red Sox, the loss of Bay doesn’t hurt them as much as it would seem. As I said, he was inconsistent here and Mike Cameron is a much cheaper option that will put up very good statistics. With Cameron in left and Marco Scutaro at shortstop, the defense is greatly improved and the huge signing of John Lackey leaves Boston with an excellent pitching staff. That more than makes up for the drop in production from the loss of Bay.
With Bay off the market, MLB turns its eyes to Matt Holliday, the best remaining free agent.