The New York Mets are only on the hook for another $19 million for beleaguered left fielder Jason Bay. According to a report in the New York Post on Tuesday, the Mets plan to get as much use out of Bay as possible; releasing him this off-season is not in the cards.
According to a team source, there is “zero” chance the beleaguered outfielder will be released this winter or asked to compete for a job in spring training.
The Mets picked Bay off the free agent market following the 2009 season; one which was a banner year for the former NL Rookie of the Year. Bay had authored a .921 OPS for he Red Sox that season and pounded 36 home runs. Having just completed his age-30 season, and with a track record of elite-level hitting that went back to 2004, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Bay would wind up with a big money deal. And he did.
Though Bay was never a strong defensive outfielder during his time in Pittsburgh, he seemed to take a step backward with the glove in Boston. Despite having lived with the likes of Manny Ramirez in left for so many years, the Red Sox soured on Bay in part because of his glovework. The Mets, always in search of a way to knock the Yankees off the back pages, were getting ready to open Citi Field and adding a premium bat like Bay’s made perfect sense.
But sometimes things just don’t work out the way they had been planned.
The fences at Citi Field were unbelievably deep and many of the biggest thumpers in baseball complained about the dimensions. New York had seemingly undermined their own strengths in neutralizing the right handed power bats in their lineup. At the same time that Bay was discovering his stadium-aided warning track power, his body began to betray him. Bay managed just 95 games in 2010 and homered only six times. He was still driving the ball well at times, as evidenced by his 20 doubles, but a .749 OPS was dragged down by a slugging percentage of just .402.
It would get worse.
Bay has suffered an array of injuries over his time with the Mets and it seems his power has been sapped by each one. His lugging percentage has declined in each season in New York, all the way to a paltry .294 this season; a year in which Bay has posted a .155 average and .525 OPS.
The Mets are on the hook for $16 million in salary for 2013, plus at least $3 million in a buyout of the option year on Bay’s contract. That 2014 option vests with 600 plate appearances in 2013 and is worth $17 million. At the time Bay signed the deal, it seemed almost unthinkable that his option wouldn’t vest considering how durable Bay had been to that point. So while Bay’s missed time has compounded the issues he has faced in New York and made their investment in him such an abject disaster, Bay’s new-found frailty could wind up saving the Wilpons a cool $14 million.
But even if he is healthy and somewhat productive in 2013, I can’t image the New York brass will let him reach that magic number of plate appearances too let that option kick in.