Do The Mets Want Jason Bay To Fail?
Every Mets fan is aware of how Jason Bay has struggled as a member of the Mets. Since inking a four year, $66 million contract in 2010, Bay has hit just .257/.337/.386 with 18 homers the past couple of seasons. After an encouraging September/October last season, where Bay batted .313/.392/.563 with three homers, smaller dimensions at Citi Field and a simple approach to this offseason, there is some reason to believe that Bay finally might live up to expectations this season. But even if Bay can prove to be the offensive stud he once was, should the Mets be rooting for him to fail?
If there’s one thing that can be said about Bay, it’s that he has a great personality. And while personalities don’t win championships, it makes you want to root for the guy. He’s proved to be coachable, listening to suggestions from hitting coach Dave Hudgens last summer which yielded positive results. He is positive, saying that “it’s not out of the realm of truth that we can be pretty good.” And he’s maintained a good sense of humor, joking that he is now a left-handed hitter. Not that any of these qualities prevented him from being booed the past couple of years, but it’s encouraging that Bay is working hard to improve his game. So why would the Mets brass, and possibly their fans, be rooting for him to fall flat on his face?
The answer has to do with money, as it usually does when it comes to the Mets nowadays. Including his bonus, Bay is set to earn $18.125 million in 2012 and 2013, but it doesn’t stop there. Thanks to a K-Rod like vesting option, the Mets will be on the hook for another $17 million in 2014 if Bay reaches 600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 plate appearances in 2012 and 2013, which, barring an unforeseen injury (hey, it’s the Mets, ya never know), is fairly attainable. If Bay hits, he will play, and if he plays and stays healthy, the option will vest. He also possesses a full, no trade clause, so Sandy Alderson won’t be able to send him to Milwaukee or some other team because Bay’s agent forgot to submit a list of teams to which he can’t be traded.
But if Bay continues to struggle, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins will be presented with an interesting situation. It’s hard to stomach paying a player over $18 million to sit on the bench, but if that’s the case, the Mets would be saving themselves money in the long run. Seeing as Johan Santana also has a vesting option for 2014, with his worth $25 million, the Mets could potentially owe $42 million to two players well past their prime. Even if the Amazins aren’t as cash-strapped by then, it’s still a lot of money for two guys who aren’t team cornerstones.
Furthermore, when 2014 rolls around, Bay will be 35 and younger players will be pushing him for his job. Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares should debut at some point this year while prospects Matt Den Dekker, Cory Vaughn and Cesar Puello could debut in a year or two-right around the time Bay’s contract will expire if the option doesn’t kick in. Bay’s presence would likely keep a younger player off the roster.
So there are some reasons why the Mets front office and fans would want Bay to have another unproductive season so that he winds up on the bench. But that being said, I have a hard time rooting for anyone on the Mets to fail, given that I’d rather see the team as a whole succeed (and I’m sure the organization and most fans feel the same way). It is also possible that if Bay has outstanding seasons in 2012 and 2013 (or very good ones) and the Mets are still floundering he would be willing to waive his no trade clause in order to play for a contender, and then structure a buyout of his option-it’s a long-shot, but not out of the realm of possibilities.
The bottom line is that I can’t root against Jason Bay, if only because he is on the Mets and I want them to do well. That being said, if he struggles throughout the season, I have no problem sticking him on the bench. Either way, I don’t foresee the Mets letting the 2014 option vest, and the front office will think of some way to save the cash.