Nov 07

Both Sides Win As Mets Sever Ties With Jason Bay

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.

 

Nov 07

2012 Mets Player Review: Jason Bay

JASON BAY, LF

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Injured and a bust in the first two years of his four-year, $66-million pact with the Mets, the expectations were mild at best. Even with the fences moved in at Citi Field, nobody really expected him to become the slugger he had been with Boston, when he made the Red Sox forget Manny Ramirez. Bay homered 18 times in his first two seasons with 104 RBI. At least, that’s what the Mets anticipated for a single season. Bay’s injuries limited him to 95 games in 2010 and 123 in 2011, the latter was a concussion sustained when he slammed into the wall at Dodger Stadium. If healthy, the Mets hoped Bay would regain his power stroke and start salvaging his contract. Bay did hit 12 homers and drove in 57 runs in 2011, but had a mediocre .329 on-base percentage and .703 OPS. For his part, Bay was a positive clubhouse presence that always hustled and played defense. But, it is difficult to be a leader when you’re not producing.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Whatever hopes the Mets might have had in rectifying Bay’s career took a serious hit last summer as another concussion limited him to 70 games. That Mets’ fans cheered Bay’s injury is reprehensible, but boiled down it was a sign of their increasing frustration with him. In many ways, Bay personified the Mets’ second-half offensive collapse. Again, Bay hustled, but only goes so far. He reached base just 41 times (32 hits and 19 walks), but he struck out 58 times, batted .165 with a .237 on-base percentage and .536 OPS. In nobody’s world is that a good season. It got to the point where manager Terry Collins said Bay’s two concussions contributed to him being sluggish at the plate. By the end of the season he was a platoon player.

LOOKING AT 2013: When the Mets signed Bay, they did so despite having a greater need for pitching, both starting and relieving. Above all else, this season represents freedom from Bay’s horrendous contract as they’ll have to pay him $16 million plus a $3 million buyout. After ridding themselves of Bay’s contract and Johan Santana’s ($25 million) after this season, the Mets will have more financial flexibility. There’s no way the Mets can escape the bust label for signing Bay; that became official a long time ago. Since he can’t be traded, Bay’s value to the Mets will be if he stays healthy and produces with power and makes them competitive. Maybe then, might somebody take him of their hands for the second half. But, don’t count on it.

NEXT: Andres Torres

Oct 11

What Should Mets Learn From Playoff Teams?

So far, this has been a compelling playoffs with the possibility of all four series going to a deciding fifth game. Major League Baseball is thrilled, and hopefully this trend will continue in the League Championship Series and World Series.

That’s what baseball should be about.

Hopefully, the Mets are taking notes. Four of the teams in the playoffs – Oakland, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington – have payrolls less than the $100 million the Mets shelled out this year for the joy of finishing 14 games below .500.

Here’s what the playoff teams have that the Mets lack:

1) Pitching: Both starting and bullpen are vital to winning. Always has been, always will be. That’s why I get frustrated when I hear complaints about the Mets’ lack of power. Home runs are the great eraser and the Yankees proved that last night. But, they were in position to win because of pitching. Three games against the Orioles and their starters reached the eighth inning each time. Unheard of. All of the teams have solid pitching and a good bullpen. As I wrote earlier today, Baltimore’s Darren O’Day is making $1.35 million this year, so it can be done inexpensively. However, that requires an aggressive front office and superior scouting, two areas where the Mets need improvement.

2) Strong minor league base: It would be foolish to say each of these teams were built solely on their farm system. Detroit and the Yankees all acquired significant talent from the outside, but there is core home grown talent from all. Just look at Matt Wieters, Joey Votto, Matt Cain and Bryce Harper. I would have mentioned Stephen Strasburg, but the Nationals pulled him from the playoffs. It could bite them in the butt, and what if the Nationals never get back here? It is possible. That is why it was encouraging this summer when several times the Mets fielded a full home grown-lineup and why I am opposed conceptually to trading Ike Davis. The Mets have a home product who hit 32 homers this year. Those don’t come along often, and rarely for the Mets. Davis is a start, along with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Ruben Tejada, not to mention David Wright. Bolstering the farm system and improving the scouting are essential for long-term growth. Free-agent signings should be to complement what’s already there.

3) Strong catching: Wieters is clearly the catcher with the most upside in the group. Regardless of how Russell Martin has played in October, the idea of pursuing him is outlandish and it was a ridiculous idea in the first place. Obviously, a slow news day. Martin is too old and too expensive for a rebuilding team, and let’s not kid ourselves, that defines the Mets. I was initially optimistic about Josh Thole, but those feelings have waned. He’s not hit for average or power and his defense has regressed. And, let’s not blame R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball for it. Catching is an issue, but I don’t believe it is as high on the Mets’ priority list as adding outfielders and relievers.

4) Timely hitting: It doesn’t get more timely than what Raul Ibanez did last night. The Mets were clutch in the first half, but their hitting with runners in scoring position disappeared in the second half. It all fell on Wright after the All-Star break and he couldn’t handle the strain. Each of these teams has an offensive core, hitters that concern an opposing manager. After Wright, and at times Davis, who is frightening in the Mets’ lineup. Scott Hairston had a good season coming off the bench, as Ibanez did, but after hitting 20 homers for the first time he might be too expensive to bring back.

5) Home field advantage: So far, it hasn’t helped San Francisco and Cincinnati, but nonetheless each of the teams in the postseason had a winning record at home. The Mets can’t ever be a serious contender until they learn to use Citi Field as an advantage. I understand the Catch-22, that part of that advantage is having people in the stands. The Mets need to improve the first four before this will take root. When Citi Field opened the Mets were vocal in saying they would build around pitching and defense, so naturally the first thing they did was sign Jason Bay. That’s the final lesson I hope the Mets learn …

6) Have a plan: Where are the Mets headed? If they don’t bring back Wright and Dickey, then it is back to square one. The team is operating as if they have no money and that’s a discouraging sign. GM Sandy Alderson said the team had the resources to add at the trade deadline, but waited until the team had fallen out of contention before deciding it was too late. On one hand, the Mets are singing the praises of their young pitching, but on the other it is exploring trading Davis, and could not bring back Wright or Dickey. What gives?

 

 

Oct 09

Count Upton, Cabrera Off Mets’ Radar

There’s plenty of intriguing possibilities, only if the Mets were willing to take a financial gamble, which Sandy Alderson said they are not inclined to do.

As I posted yesterday, the Mets have $79.5 million of their earmarked $100 million to spend on six players: Johan Santana, RA Dickey, David Wright, Jason Bay, Jon Niese and Frank Francisco.

B.J. Upton would be terrific in Citi Field, supplying defense to aid the pitching staff and offense. At 28, he’s just the kind of player you could sign to a multi-year deal and build around. Trouble is he comes with some attitude baggage and the Mets would be wary of surrounding their young talent around him. That’s one of the reasons they were willing to eat the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

Upton would be much better on a veteran laden team – like the Yankees – that has the leadership to keep him in line. When the Mets sputtered in the second half and Terry Collins suggested they were quitting, that’s the scenario where Upton might pack it in.

The guy I am especially intrigued about is Melky Cabrera, who would cost less than Upton because of his own baggage.

On the plus side, Cabrera could cover left field and adds a lot offensively. This year, and last season with Kansas City, he proved he can hit. But, he was making $6 million this year and even with a pay cut that’s too rich for the Mets’ blood.

Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for using a performance enhancing drug. His team, the Giants, wouldn’t let him go on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues as he is allowed and kept him off the postseason roster. What does that tell you about there desire to bring him back?

On top of the suspension, he and his idiot agent cooked up a crazy cover story that included the design of a website. That might have been worse than the drug use itself.

Cabrera, who led the National League in hitting this year and it a damage control move asked that he not be awarded the title, would likely get a short term deal because he’s a risk. Who wants to sink time and money for a player that could get nailed again? You don’t have to pay during a suspension, but you do have to fill the spot if he’s suspended.

Excluding the drug use there’s another question about him and that’s the number of teams he’s played for at a young age. In a seven-year span Cabrera has played for the Giants, Royals, Yankees and Braves, or just under two years a team.

There’s something wrong with that picture.

 

Oct 08

Forecasting What Mets Have To Spend Next Year

The Mets might have received a favorable ruling in the Madoff case, but that doesn’t the economic climate around Citi Field is that much better.

Hardly, in fact, with a sub-par showing at the gate, caused largely in part by the club’s failure to improve their bullpen and outfield at mid-season, which led to a second-half collapse.

With a team going 15 straight home games without scoring more than three runs, who is going to come out?

The burgers aren’t that good.

The Mets’ payroll was $100 million this year and is forecast to be much the same in 2013. It is possible to reach the playoffs with a sub-$100 million payroll as Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore and Oakland are still standing. The Athletics’ payroll is nearly half that of the Mets, and they also play in a two-team market, so it can be done. The Nationals, of course, finished 24 games ahead of the Mets in the NL East.

It takes superior scouting and farm system, prudent trades and free-agent signings, and a patience to let your young talent develop. The Mets have done precious little in those areas and since 2005 have relied on veteran free agents that were either too old on the down side of their careers, or became injured and non-productive.

Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine gave the Mets some good moments. Both had physical issues and the team couldn’t build around them.

Frankie Rodriguez, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Billy Wagner, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were all too pricey and failed in their expectations. The Mets are saying they really won’t be able to do anything in the free-agent market until after the 2013 season when Santana and Bay are off the books.

Other signings, such as Guillermo Mota, Julio Franco, JJ Putz and Scott Schoeneweis – that’s a name I almost forgot about – were simply bad as the Mets overpaid in dollars and years.

Outside of Jon Niese and possibly Matt Harvey, what has come out of the farm system? David Wright, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada are the only homegrown position players who had substantial seasons. Lucas Duda and Josh Thole are to be determined, Mike Pelfrey has been hit or miss, is now injured and likely won’t be tendered a contract.

Do you remember that star-studded outfield of prospects Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez? Gomez was in the Santana trade, but other than that, the Mets got noting from the trio that was supposed to patrol their outfield for a decade.

While four teams in the playoffs have payrolls less than the Mets, none are as expensive market as New York. The Mets face the problem of working extensions for Wright and R.A. Dickey within that $100-million parameter, but not much higher.

Since Wright is already on the books for $15 million for next year and Dickey for $5 million, that’s $20 million of their extensions already accounted for in 2013. The Mets could backload their contracts to ease some of the strain, but they still have $79.5 million of the $100 million already earmarked for six players.

In addition to Wright and Dickey, the Mets are committed next year to Santana ($25.5 million plus a $5.5 million buyout); Bay ($16 million plus a $3 million buyout); Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and Jon Niese ($3 million).

That means they must spread $20.5 million among 19 players to complete their 25-man roster. Of that, figure in a raise to maybe $3.5 million for Davis, who is arbitration eligible.

There’s not a lot of wiggle room, and definitely not enough to sign a big-ticket free-agent. They will have to rely on minor league promotions and free agents signing for no more than $1 million.

Good luck with that.