It’s safe to say that the Jason Bay experiment with the New York Mets didn’t work out the way they had planned.
For Mets fans, the painful three-year Jason Bay experience came to an end when the team and Bay agreed to a buyout, making him a free agent, and an already well paid one at that.
Bay has been downright bad over the past few years, battling both the repercussions of a bad concussion and declining skills due to aging. Over his three years with the Mets, Bay played in just 288 games (less than two years worth), hitting .234/.318/.369 with just 26 home runs.
Bay is clearly no longer the player he once was, and as a traditional free agent, Bay would be lucky to get a guaranteed contract from a team. He would likely have to settle for a minor league invite to spring training to prove that he is healthy and that he can still contribute to a major league team.
But Bay is not a traditional free agent. He’s a free agent who’s already getting a ton of money from the Mets.
That means that if Bay wants to play again, which he insists that he does, money is virtually no factor. What can be a factor in Bay’s decision will likely be finding a place where he can get some playing time, a place where he wants to be, and a place where he is comfortable. He may still have to take a minor league deal, but the major league contingency portion of that contract can be for a league minimum.
And in a rare occasion, the Pittsburgh Pirates may have the upper hand.
Bay had three of his best seasons in Pittsburgh, where he was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2004. It’s possible that Bay could choose to return to the place where he became a star and play for a team where he would be out of the spotlight after spending the past three seasons getting killed by the New York media and fans.
From the Pirates standpoint, they are in the need for another right-handed bat. It’s difficult to envision Bay returning to the level of an everyday player, but there is a chance that he could be a platoon option against left-handed pitching. In his one relatively healthy season with the Mets, Bay hit .300/.418/.500 in 134 plate appearances against lefties. There’s a chance he could fill that role on the Pirates roster.
The Pirates are planning to enter spring training with Travis Snider getting regular at-bats as a corner outfielder, but the lefty could form a solid platoon with Bay if Bay can regain a portion of his previous form.
Most importantly for the Pirates, however, Bay wouldn’t cost them anything more than the league minimum.
By no means should Bay be the centerpiece, or even a significant portion of, the Pirates off-season plans, but the risks involved in signing him are virtually non-existent. If he still stinks, the Pirates can cut him. If he can contribute, it will be free production for a team that needs all the bargains they can find.
And for Bay, a return to Pittsburgh could give him the best opportunity to find what has escaped him over the past three years.