Usually not much happens at the GM meetings, especially for the Mets. But this afternoon they reached an agreement to terminate Jason Bay’s contract and granting him unconditional free agency. That’s a big deal as it eliminates a black cloud that has been hovering over the Mets the past three years.
The Mets owe Bay $16 million for 2013 with a $3 million buyout for 2014. Terms of the buyout were not disclosed, but assume Bay got something.
In a statement released by the Mets, Bay said: “I still feel I have plenty to give to this game and that I can play baseball at a high level. But after serious consideration, both sides agree that we would benefit from a fresh start. I’m grateful we were able to reach an agreement to allow that to happen.”
Bay’s performance and the need for a fresh start was reminiscent to some degree to the termination of Oliver Perez’s contract. Neither Bay nor Perez were producing, but while Perez rejected a minor league assignment to work on his mechanics and became a clubhouse pariah, Bay remained popular with his teammates and never stopped running.
As I posted earlier today in Bay’s 2012 review profile, the Mets were just biding their time until the end of his contract. Both sides win in this as Bay gets his money and a chance to move on and the Mets free themselves of a production headache, although they’ll still be on the hook for a considerable sum.
The important thing from the Mets’ perception is they can move ahead freely and won’t be mired in the dilemma of how to handle Bay, who ended last year in a platoon role. If the Mets can acquire a right fielder, it could allow them to move Lucas Duda to left field, considered an easier position.
Bolstering the outfield has been designated as a priority. Kirk Nieuwenhuis initially played well, but eventually faltered and was optioned down. Scott Hairston had a good year off the bench, might price himself out of the Mets’ plans if he wants a multi-year deal.
Bay wasn’t a fit from the outset when they signed him as a free-agent from Boston prior to the Mets’ move into Citi Field. At the time, the Mets said they were building their team around pitching, speed and defense, so naturally they signed a right-handed power hitter. Bay played surprisingly good defense and always hustled, but his production was never there.
Maybe the Mets’ first clue about Bay was when the Red Sox didn’t make a serious attempt to re-sign him and rescinded an offer.
Bay hit at least 30 homers in four straight seasons before signing a four-year, $66-million contract, but batted just .234 with 26 homers and 124 RBI in three years with the Mets. It wouldn’t be a reach to say the Mets expected him to average at least 26 homers with 124 RBI a season.
To be fair, Bay was sidelined by a myriad of injuries, including two concussions and a fractured rib, but even when healthy, he looked lost at the plate.
In a statement released by the Mets, GM Sandy Alderson said: “Jason has a tremendous work ethic. There was never any question about it. Unfortunately, the results weren’t there and we are in a results-oriented business. We thank Jason for his efforts and wish him well.”
Bay said he wants to keep playing and has no intention of quitting. He expressed no regrets other than his performance, offered no excuses and wished the fans and his former teammates well.