Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Is Jason's Bay's Short Stay in Boston Over?

Jason Bay's brief career in Boston may be over.

Bay has rejected the Red Sox' latest offer (four years, $60 million) and is entertaining better proposals from other clubs, according to his agent, Joe Urbon.

"We don't agree with their evaluation of the player," Urbon said. "Frankly, we have other offers on the table that are of greater interest to Jason."

Though Urbon left open the possibility that the Red Sox could rejoin the negotiations, he didn't sound optimistic about that possibility, saying Bay was prepared to "move on."

The Mets reportedly offered Bay a four-year, $65 million deal, and the Angels and Mariners are among the other clubs showing interest.

The Red Sox have a history of placing a value on a player and not budging from it. They don't get emotionally invested in, or attached to, their players – though some would argue that in the past they've become too enamored with other team's free agents (i.e.Julio Lugo and JD Drew). In recent years, the Red Sox have let Bill Meuller, Kevin Millar, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon all walk away to better offers.

The 31-year-old Bay is believed to be seeking a five-year contract. The Red Sox don't generally like to enter into deals of five years or longer with players in their 30's. However, the Sox did grant JD Drew an eyebrow raising five-year contract three years ago, when he was also 31.

For what it’s worth, during his major league career as a starter (2004-09), Bay ranks in the top 10 of all major league outfielders in OPS, a statistic on which the Sox have placed great emphasis and in which Bay and Drew have been a virtual dead heat over the last six years. However, Bay beats Drew handily in games played (892-749), home runs (181-120), runs scored (564-497) and RBI (596-425).

In the absence of Bay, the Red Sox could move on to negotiations with Scott Boras regarding Matt Holliday. As it stands, the Sox and Boras are already negotiating the parameters of a contract with Adrian Beltre. But knowing how long and protracted negotiations with Boras are, and how highly he values (some would say overvalues) his clients, the Holliday option could be very costly, and perhaps a dead end. In addition, Holliday is likely seeking a contract in excess of five years.

With that in mind, the Sox are also considering Mike Cameron, who will be 37 next month. Cameron is a center fielder, but appears willing to move to a corner outfield spot. In 149 games last season, Cameron posted a .250/.342/.452 line, all essentially matching his career averages. Cameron also had 24 homers and 70 RBI in 2009.

Obviously, that won't make up for the loss of Bay's production, and Cameron seems like a very weak fall back plan. However, Cameron is a far superior defender to Bay, and the Red Sox are placing ever-greater emphasis on run prevention.

Another option for the Sox is free agent Marlon Byrd, who was offered salary arbitration by the Rangers. The 32-year-old outfielder had 20 homers and 89 RBI last season, to go along with a .283/.329/.422 line.

Byrd is a versatile fielder with good range, who has played all three outfield positions. That, coupled with the fact that he is also a right handed hitter with some power, might make him a great fit at Fenway Park.

As an indication of Byrd's terrific character, he won the Rangers' Harold McKinney "Good Guy Award" in 2007.

With highly touted minor league outfielders like Ryan Kalish, Ryan Westmoreland and Josh Reddick just a couple of yeas away from contributing to the big league team, the Red Sox don't seem eager to invest in the defensively limited Bay for more than four years. They believe that before his contract is through, they will have better defensive options at a far lower cost, and that Bay will eventually wind up as an overpriced DH.

With that in mind, it is conceivable that we've seen the last of Jason Bay in a Red Sox uniform.

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