Yesterday in the New York Post, Mike Puma quoted a team source who stated that there was “zero” chance Jason Bay would be cut this offseason or during Spring Training. The truly nauseating part of the story, though, was Puma’s sentence that Bay “won’t be asked to compete for a job in Spring Training.” There’s no reason for the Mets to cut Bay during the offseason, regardless of how putrid he’s been. For the dollars that are invested in Bay, it makes sense to see if next spring he all of a sudden remembers how to hit a baseball and/or recovers the bat speed he’s lost. What is completely ridiculous, is a team source indicating Bay won’t even have to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster. It’s more than ridiculous, actually, it’s insane.
Puma opined that the Mets may be hesitant to cut Bay, only to see him thrive elsewhere on their dime. If the same Jason Bay we’ve seen over the last few years shows up at Spring Training next year, I don’t think anyone has to worry about him excelling once he’s cut loose. Adam Rubin weighed in yesterday afternoon, suggesting that this quote may be posturing on the part of the Mets – an attempt to keep any possible leverage (laughable, I know) the Mets may have in a potential Bay trade. Like Puma, though, Rubin expects Bay to be on the Mets’ 2013 Opening Day roster.
Here’s what it boils down to: If Jason Bay reports to Spring Training next year and shows in March that he may be able to be a productive piece (even in a bench role), it would be acceptable to allow him to break camp with the club. If he continues to do what he’s been doing, he needs to be cut. Bay wasn’t an Alderson acquisition, so this can’t be him trying to save face. The money spent on Bay is already down the drain, and he’ll be getting paid either way (unless he pulls a Gil Meche and retires). It makes more sense to pay him to go away than it does to pay him to continue to negatively affect the team on the field. If by some miracle Bay is cut and contributes positively to another team, chances are it was the New York pressure that was holding him back. In that case, one can assume he needed a change of scenery to succeed. In a more likelier scenario, Bay will be cut and continue to be awful if another team picks him up. His horrible play may be due in part to a pair of concussions he’s suffered, although he was pretty terrible in 2009 before his late season concussion. Since then, Bay’s numbers haven’t just been bad, they’ve been appalling. His pitch recognition is horrific. His bat speed is non-existent. His numbers this year have reflected it: His batting average is .155. His OBP is .231. He’s striking out roughly once per three plate appearances.
Before the 2011 season, the Mets had a similar situation with both Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. As bad and lethargic as Castillo was, he finished 2010 with a .235 average and .337 OBP. Terrible, but All-Star caliber when compared to Jason Bay’s 2012 numbers. Perez was a complete mess, both mentally and on the field. What did the Mets do? They cut Castillo and Perez before the season began.
The Mets’ outfield is a mess, and that can’t be debated. Andres Torres should be non-tendered after the season. Lucas Duda is unproven at best, a future non-contributor at worst, and Mike Baxter isn’t a starter. Kirk Nieuwenhuis regressed and then got injured after showing flashes. Matt Den Dekker isn’t ready. The Mets need to find solutions to their outfield problems, likely through trades. Unless he proves otherwise during the Spring, it’s impossible for the Mets to claim that Jason Bay is one of those solutions. If Bay continues to display ineptitude at the plate and the Mets keep him, it means this regime is comfortable wasting a roster spot on a player who adds nothing positive to the team. Or, it means ownership is refusing to allow Alderson and Co. to cut bait. Either way, it would be one more slap in the face to a fan base that’s had to endure slap after slap over the last four seasons. Hopefully, sanity prevails if Bay doesn’t improve. That would result in Bay packing his bags after Spring Training and heading home, not to Citi Field.