When the New York Mets signed Jason Bay to a four-year, $66 million contract prior to the 2010 season, the team finally added some much-needed punch to the middle of its order. Bay was coming off a 36-homer campaign with the Boston Red Sox and had put up six-straight 20-plus home run seasons.
But as we sit here three years later, the Mets will still be paying Bay, but he’ll be playing for the Seattle Mariners.
Bay struggled mightily in New York, dealing with several bad injuries along the way. Rather than give him one last chance, the Mets decided to move on.
Everyone in the Mets organization agreed that Bay’s work ethic was unmatched. But unfortunately for him, the results just weren’t there in this results-oriented business.
At age 34, Bay was still expected to latch on with a team this offseason, maybe on a minor-league deal. The Mariners signed him for one year, but the team opted to give him a guaranteed contract at $1 million.
Sure, this is nothing like the deal the Mets gave him a few years ago, but based on his results at the plate the last three seasons, giving him a guaranteed deal is a huge gamble. The change of scenery may help, but making Bay earn a spot on a young Mariners team could have further lit a fire under him.
Bay was a complete player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he built his game on his righty power bat. In three years for the Mets, however, Bay hit just 26 home runs.
Citi Field is certainly not a hitter’s park. In fact, just three years after the park opened, the fences were moved in to account for the lack of home runs.
Safeco Field in Seattle also is definitely a pitcher’s park. But the Mariners decided this offseason to bring the fences in as well.
Just because the fences are shorter at Safeco doesn’t automatically mean that Bay will regain his power stroke. That wasn’t the case last year at Citi Field, which once again begs the question of why the Mariners were so eager to give him a guaranteed contract.
Franklin Gutierrez is a fixture in Seattle’s outfield, and the team also traded for Michael Morse. The Mariners brought in the veteran Raul Ibanez as well. Michael Saunders is also in the mix after bashing 19 home runs last season.
Though Bay is on the 40-man roster, he can sent to the minors for $500,000 rather than the $1 million is he makes the team.
So far, the new surroundings are already working wonders, as Bay homered in his first spring training at-bat for the Mariners. But let’s see him put together a consistent string of at-bats after seemingly forgetting how to hit the past three seasons.