The Mets are on the verge of finally signing Jason Bay to a 4 year deal with a vesting option for a 5th year. Everyone knows by now that I do not agree with paying top dollar for a corner outfielder unless they are truly an extraordinary talent – and unfortunately for the Mets, Bay is a good but rather limited player.
Playing left field for the Red Sox is a great place for any right-handed hitter in two respects: righties generally hit well in Fenway and left fielders have very little ground to cover. To Bay’s credit, his home-road splits aren’t very pronounced (.936 – .904 OPS) and while playing at Citifield will certainly hurt his power numbers, Bay should still be a very productive bat in the lineup for the Mets. Bay’s defense is suspect (-11.2 UZR/150 last season) though, and that could be more of an issue as Bay will be asked to cover a much more ground for the Mets, who also do not have the luxury of eventually moving Bay to DH. Bay did have 15 assists last year, but that number is a bit suspect: playing so shallow in Fenway always leads to more assists (which explains why Manny Ramirez had so many as a member of the Red Sox). Range statistics can be a bit suspect though and Manny actually improved according to UZR (though he was still terrible) when he moved to LA. So perhaps Bay will be able to hold his own well enough in Citifield.
The main problem I have with this deal though is that it smacks of a shameless attempt by Omar Minaya to save his job by bringing in a big name. Throughout his tenure, Minaya has been a populist GM: he addresses needs seemingly based on the wants of the average fan. Surely there is something to be said for giving fans the team they want, but really the GMs job is to be smarter than the average fan in terms of roster construction. Last year, Minaya put a good amount of his resources into the much maligned bullpen, acquiring JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, and had to settle for Oliver Perez to help the rotation, when there were better starters available on the market. The average fan almost always overvalues bullpen arms and so did Minaya (though, to his credit, many GMs are still doing this – thus the contracts this year for Brandon Lyon, Fernando Rodney, etc).
Bay will likely be a solid player for the Mets in 2010 and maybe if he ages gracefully he’ll come close to justifying his contract. But he still seems like a miscast piece to the puzzle of fixing the Mets. Obviously if the Mets get healthy, they’ll compete, but I would have made a harder run at John Lackey and looked into less expensive hitting options, such as Nick Johnson, Johnny Damon, or Mike Cameron.