Bad Contract of the Day to Swap Jason Bay With: Alfonso Soriano
After posting his second consecutive subpar season for the Mets, Jason Bay proved his lucrative $66 million, four-year deal was a complete bust. And even though Bay did see his homerun total double (from 6 homeruns to 12 homeruns), he also saw a decline in batting average (from .259 to .245), on-base percentage (from .347 to .329), slugging percentage (from .402 to .374), and ISO (from .144 to .128).
Bay has a guaranteed $35 million over the next two seasons (including his $3 million buyout for 2014), which makes him an incredibly difficult person to trade. However, despite how bad Bay’s contract is, there is a good chance the Mets could swap him for today’s “Bad Contract of the Day to Swap Jason Bay With,” outfielder Alfonso Soriano.
Post the 2006 season, the Chicago Cubs were desperate. Besides not having won a World Series since 1908, the 2006 Cubs lost a whopping 96 ball-games under the helm of Dusty Baker–and despite spending almost $95 million in payroll. It would be Baker’s final season in the Windy City, and 2007 began the Lou Pinella era–but it also became the Alfonso Soriano era too.
Coming off arguably his best offensive campaign (.277/.351/.560 line with 46 homeruns, 95 RBI, 119 runs, and 41 stolen bases in 728 plate appearances) in his sole season with the Washington Nationals, the Cubs decided to break the bank on Alfonso Soriano. The-then-General Manager Jim Hendry handed the slugger a mammoth eight-year, $136 million contract to take over left field and bat lead-off.
Initially, the Zeus-esq contract paid dividends. In his first season as a Cub, the former-Yankees star smacked a .299/.337/.560 line with 33 homeruns, 70 RBI, 97 runs, and 19 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. In addition to his dynamic offense, Soriano surprisingly gloved a sensational 39.2 UZR/150, helping bump his fWAR up to 7.0 (or $28.7 million). The former-last-place Cubs took the division in 2007, and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
And even though Soriano slumped down to a .280/.344/.532 line with 29 homeruns, 75 RBI, 76 runs, and 19 stolen bases in 2008, no one really seemed to care since the Cubs, on the whole, were playing so well (won their second divisional title in two years). But then 2009 happened. While Soriano was never really an on-base machine (.329 career OBP from 1999 to 2008), the hitter seemed to lose his ability to ever touch first base. The 33 year-old Soriano posted a dismal .241/.303/.423 line with 20 homeruns, 55 RBI, 64 runs, and 9 stolen bases in 522 plate appearances. The right-handed hitter’s struggles didn’t just stop in the batter’s box, but also extended to the field. Despite gloving a 39.2 UZR/150 in 2007 and 26.0 UZR/150 in 2008, Soriano dropped all the way down to an unearthly -4.8 UZR/150 in 2009. The Cubs missed the Wild Card, and thus the playoffs, leading to a lot of question marks for the off-season.
Luckily for the Cubs, 2010 posed to be a bit of a “renaissance” season for the maligned outfielder, swatting a more respectable .258/.322/.496 line with 24 homeruns, 79 RBI, 67 runs, and 5 stolen bases. Soriano also saw his UZR/150 rise from a horrific -4.8 UZR/150 to a solid 6.3 UZR/150. Progression aside, Soriano was not nearly the player he was just two seasons earlier, yet he was making $18 million (or 12.5% of the monstrous $145 million payroll). The now 35 year-old Soriano hoped to build-on his solid 2010 season, but that simply was not in the cards. The righty posted his worst career season in 2011, owning a .244/.289/.469 line with 26 homeruns, 88 RBI, 50 runs, and just 2 stolen bases. Soriano’s 4.7 UZR/150 was solid, but barely boosted his pedestrian 1.3 fWAR.
Considering his 2011 production only generated 33% of his paycheck, it’s safe to say that Alfonso Soriano and his mammoth contract are officially crippling. He is due to make $18 million in each of the next three seasons, and will be 38 years-old in his final contractual season (in 2014). So given the Soriano situation, would it make sense for the Mets to swap Jason Bay with the Cubs own troubled outfielder? Definitely not. While Soriano might have more pop than Bay, at least Bay can still get on-base, is three years younger, and has one less season left on his contract. In this case, the grass isn’t greener on the other side.