For the first six years of his baseball career, Jason Bay was one of the game’s up-and-coming stars. He toiled in relative obscurity, first with the San Diego Padres and then with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where his tenacious, hard-slugging style of play caught the attention of baseball fans everywhere.
After a two-season stretch with the Boston Red Sox, Bay reached the pinnacle of his career. He was able to test the free-agent market for the first time. Suitors lined up around the block. Bay knew his career would take him someplace special. It did, as Bay signed a lucrative four-year contract worth $66 million with the New York Mets before the 2010 season started.
How the Mets wish they could have that time back. From the minute Bay set foot in the Big Apple, he felt pressure to produce with that fat contract hanging from his neck like an albatross. It made for some uncomfortable times as frustrated Mets fans quickly realized they had been sold a bill of goods. This month, Bay and the Mets came to the same conclusion. He had underproduced, and the Mets wanted him out of town.
Bay will be paid the full $21 million he is owed on the contract, and the $15 million that is deferred money will come to him before the end of 2015. He certainly doesn’t leave New York a pauper. One of the nice things (for the players, anyway) about guaranteed contracts in Major League Baseball is that teams often have to pay every cent themselves, unless other teams agree to pick up salary in a trade. With the termination agreement, Bay becomes an immediate free agent and can test the market again, presumably with a smaller, incentive-loaded deal coming to mind.
So where did it go horribly wrong for Bay? His loss means fans can go to a Mets game and figure out Where to Park in NYC without worrying about watching an overpriced slugger throw away $21 million. Heck, Mets fans say, the Yankees do that with Alex Rodriguez in one year!
In Bay’s defense the bat that produced back-to-back 30-homer seasons with Pittsburgh in 2005 and 2006, plus another pair of 30-homer seasons in 2008 with Pittsburgh and the Boston Red Sox in 2009, may have been compromised by his hard, gritty style of play.
A concussion in 2010 limited Bay to 95 games, and rib injuries each of the past two seasons hampered Bay’s ability to swing the ball. He hit 26 home runs over his three seasons in New York, with his best campaign in 2011 when he hit 12 home runs and drove in 57. Citi Field is not a strong home-run hitting park either, and Citi’s dimensions were changed following the 2011 season to reflect that.
His past history will get Bay some free-agent looks. The consensus is this market is not really good and teams always can use help when it comes to power bats. Boston has been mentioned as a destination for Bay once again, especially with the mass housecleaning the Red Sox had this summer and fall. Because his price is likely to fall big time, smaller-spending teams like the Cleveland Indians are on his list. Supposedly, Bay loved playing under former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who is now in Cleveland.
Jason Bay may not get another $66 million deal anytime soon, but a solid season could parlay into a better deal down the road. For now, the book closes on the Mets and an uncertain future lies ahead.
This Fan Shot was contributed by Rebecca. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 12 thousand Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to GetMetsmerized@aol.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.