As has often been the case during Sandy Alderson’s tenure, today’s news about Jason Bay came out of nowhere. There were no whispers and no leaks. All anyone had been hearing was the company line that the Mets would go into Spring Training with Jason Bay on the roster. What do we know now? As has been reported over the last several hours, Bay will not be a New York Met in 2013, after the Mets and Bay agreed to end their relationship a year early. We also know that the Mets will be on the hook for the entirety of the money owed to Bay, but that a portion of it (how the dollars will be spread out is not yet known) will be deferred. In short, before any other details emerge, it’s easy to conclude that this is a win for the Mets.
We don’t yet know the specifics of how the payments will be spread out, but something that can already be determined is the message this sends to the fans. Bay faced the music and played hard while his skills diminished, but it was clear that he was no longer a productive Major League player. Fans wanted him off the team, and that demand has been granted. Whether or not you view ownership and/or Sandy Alderson in a favorable light, the ability of the Mets to clear their roster of Bay is a victory. When you take into account the fact that this will free up more money for the team to spend this offseason, it becomes a bigger deal. If it turns out that this move allows the Mets much greater flexibility when constructing their roster for 2013, it may be viewed as a tremendous move. We will, however, have to wait for the deferment breakdown to be announced. Deferring payments or backloading new deals isn’t always ideal, but with the Mets’ payroll flexibility going into 2014 (and how tight their finances were going into 2013), doing this deal with Bay was a no-brainer.
Now, regardless of how much money this frees up for 2013, I don’t think the Mets will go out and throw large dollars and years at the flawed big name free agents who are out there (nor do I believe they should). The Mets’ main need is addressing an outfield whose production in 2012 was brutal. With no impact bats close in the Minors, any marked improvement will likely have to come via trade or free agency.
One player Mets fans have been clamoring for is Justin Upton, who is actively being shopped by the Diamondbacks. Upton’s play is at times maddening, and at times brilliant. At 25, and with a World of potential, he’s the type of player the Mets may be looking to acquire. He’s owed close to $10 million next season, and roughly $14 million in both 2014 and 2015. This is not to say that getting rid of Jason Bay will allow the Mets to afford Upton, or that they’d be willing to trade what it takes to acquire him. I’m simply pointing out the fact that the removal of Bay from the roster and the fact that the Mets have lessened the burden his deal would’ve had on their books in the near term, could allow for some flexibility and creativity. Even if the Bay move doesn’t lead to the Mets acquiring a name like Justin Upton, it should certainly put the Mets in a better position than they were in 24 hours ago. According to Joel Sherman on Twitter, the Mets said they “wouldn’t have done Bay buyout if didn’t give ability to spend more in ’13, would just have tried again with Bay if that were case.” If accurate, that quote lends credence to the fact that the Mets will certainly be open to adding additional payroll for next season. A later tweet from Sherman said the Mets didn’t save “big” money for 2013, but it’s left to the imagination what his definition of “big” is. I don’t think anyone thought the Mets would save $16 million in 2013, but if they saved even $5 million or $6 million that can then be dedicated to the 2013 payroll, it’s a huge win. We’ll have to wait for that information to come out.
Moving from players from outside the organization to players who are here, the Jason Bay early termination/deferment may also have an effect on what the Mets do with David Wright and R.A. Dickey, and how quickly those matters are settled. Now that the Jason Bay situation has been dealt with, Wright and Dickey (who both wanted to know the direction the Mets were heading in before potentially signing long-term), have seen Sandy Alderson rid the team of an albatross in a move that likely allows for more financial flexibility going into 2013. That, along with the fact that Alderson has one less headache to focus on, may help to facilitate the decisions on Wright and Dickey. The Alderson regime has been one of tight lips, so it’s possible the Wright and Dickey decisions have already been determined and will come out of nowhere and be known soon. I don’t think anyone expected any big announcements from the Mets so soon after the destruction that was caused by Hurricane Sandy, nor do I believe it would’ve been appropriate to potentially hold a jubilant press conference for a millionaire in its wake.
Wright’s $16 million dollar option for 2013 was already picked up (along with Dickey’s smaller option), so I don’t foresee the Mets spinning the Bay move as something that allowed them to sign Wright and/or Dickey to extensions (since they could clearly afford both for next year regardless of what happened with Bay). What I see, is a transaction that was made that removes Bay from the roster, while potentially allowing the team to allocate more dollars in order to address areas of need this offseason. If it allows them to acquire a player such as Justin Upton, great. If it allows them to secure someone else who can contribute positively in 2013, good.
All potential scenarios aside, here are the facts: Jason Bay is no longer a Met, and the team will have more money to spend this offseason as a result. Regardless of what happens from here, today was a good day. The first major unexpected move of the offseason was a solid one, and Mets fans can only hope it’s the first of many positive moves to follow.