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Jason Bay Hits It Big With the Mets

Jason Bay hit .267 with 36 home runs and 119 RBI in the 2009 season with the Boston Red Sox. On the back of this performance, Bay has earned himself a new contract with a new team.

This time, it’s a 4 year, $66 million contract with the New York Mets. This is not the final amount of the contract, however. A vesting option for a fifth year makes it possible for Bay to make $80 million over 5 years.

The Red Sox looked like they had no choice but to let Bay go since they spent about $100 million on Mike Cameron and John Lackey combined.

Argue with me all you’d like but a .267 batting average is not enough for me to give out that kind of money. Bay is a great player and will add a much needed spike to the Mets’ offense and defense, but it is tough to justify that price-tag.

4 replies on “Jason Bay Hits It Big With the Mets”

I’m glad to see this posted here. I’ve always thought the Mets had a tendency to overpay and pay the wrong guys. So, thank you for posting.

I further inspection is warranted. The Mets (hopefully) weren’t trying to buy his 2009, but his 2010-2014/15 seasons; they likely looked at Bay’s statistics trying to predict his future value/production.

With regard to BA, while he has hit lower than .267 (.247 in 2007) he generally hits for a higher average–his career BA is .280. Moreover, his lower average does not seem to be a product of a declining ability to deliver hits but does provide evidence of what type of hits he was going for in 2009. His OBP (.384) was his highest since 2006 and above his career average of .376–that makes me think patience (he also had his 3rd highest walk total). And, his SLG was his highest since 2005 as hit hit a career-high 36 HRs (topping his 2006 total of 35).

Another way to look at this is to look at his last three years. Bay’s career years were 2005 and 2006 when he was 26 and 27, which are typically the years when male athletes are at the peak of there physical acumen. Since then, he has (funny enough) batted .267. However, his OBP, SLG, HR total, walk total, SO total, and RBI total have each increased each year. This is the traditional (according to traditional wisdom) progression of a power hitter.

So maybe the Mets didn’t see a .267 hitter, they saw a .280 hitter. Or maybe, they saw a .267 hitter who’ll hit 30+ HRs for the next four years while working counts and getting on base and driving in runs regularly in the middle of their lineup. They likely expect their lineup will afford him similar, if not better protection than he had in Boston. Of course, without the Green Monster to aim at (and rather, the vast expanses of Citi Field to boot), he may well disappoint in the HR total department. He may make up for that with similar or higher RBI totals, more 2Bs, and a bump in BA as he decides to stop aiming for the Monster that no longer exists and start driving the gaps more.

I’ve not provided a full breakdown either. Certainly, Bay’s demeanor and conduct are pluses for him, for example.

Maybe more importantly, what’s your approach to assigning value? All the points above are not worth much themselves unless there’s a baseline–i.e. what’s the rationale behind the price tag being ‘too high’? What price tag is justifiable and why?


Thanks for the comment, Richard. I really enjoyed reading your analysis here and I like the reasoning behind your theory of the Mets looking for long-term value.

The one thing that worries me here with power hitters who specialize in HRs is consistency. I’m no expert but if I’m building up my team I want hitters who hit consistently. A hitter like Bay averaged 0.067 home runs per AB last season.

What would I do? I’d go out and sign a player who has a consistent and solid balance of homeruns, RBI and batting average. The Mets could have found a better deal by taking that path.

I think that’s right on the mark. The cost of players like Bay, and even more so like ARod and Sabathia, is extraordinary relative to average salaries. The law of diminishing returns is at play; e.g., each additional home run costs more and more. I think it’s an important area for agents to explore. Is it appropriate to pay the extra $7 million per year for superstar who’s only going to hit 15 more home runs when there are players available and expected to produce a .280 BA and 20 HR? Would a team be better off locking in two “value” players with slightly better than market salaries than one superstar?

Of course, the Yanks, et al will say no because they can pay for three (or more!) superstars and still fill there rosters with value players (as recently supported by Yankee front office comments… sorry, I forget where I read it or I’d quote it here).

It’s proving difficult to determine the right price for Bay by comparing his deal to other deals. A look at free agent signings in the past few years doesn’t yield many comparisons. Since Torii Hunter, the closest I’ve found have been Mark Texiera and Mike Lowell, neither of whom had deals particularly close (or who are particularly good comparisons as players). So Torii Hunter–who signed a 5 year, $90 M deal following the 2007 season–looks like the best heads-up comparison, despite that the marketplace (the economy) was considerably different in 2007.

At the time, Torii Hunter was a little over 1 year older than Bay is now. His fielding is highly regarded (even if some metrics indicate a decline in the last few years) and he plays a defensively more significant position. Bay’s glove is not considered strong (even though some metrics indicate he’s stronger than generally perceived) and he’ll be wandering around in left field.

Torii cracked 30 HRs once, but his SLG was significantly lower at about .470 compared to about .520. Torri struck out much less, but Bay had far more walks. Torii had just batted close to .290, but his career average was lower–about .270 vs. .280. Comparative OBP seems telling as Torii is typically in the neighborhood of .330 while Bay is on base at a clip approaching .380. That says to me that Bay is more than making up for his extra strikeouts. And, though I haven’t looked into this, I’d guess Bay works counts better, which helps tire the pitcher and helps the rest of the lineup.

Torii has an edge in stolen bases, but it’s not world-beating. He’s also proven a more vocal leader than Bay will likely ever be, but I don’t see a big edge there given that Bay’s clubhouse track record. Another place to look would be RBIs, where Bay is the superior, but that would require some serious inspection since, like runs, it really depends on the opportunities generated by teammates.

Overall, I’d rather have Bay on my team than Torii all things being equal (including whether there was a distinct team need for a CF or LF). There is certainly more upside in the power department and being on-base MUCH more is hard to argue with.

With this small comparison, it’s a reasonable hypothesis that the Mets, if they overpaid at all, didn’t overpay compared to what the market ‘thinks.’ They got a better player than Torii for less money in a depressed market. And, given the hype of the upcoming deal for Holliday (who’s his agent? hehe), I doubt the Mets could’ve gotten away with paying much less and still retaining someone comparable.

With that in mind, the argument “they paid too much” probably needs to center on a team-building theory that does not include high-priced talent. Did someone say Rockies and Twins?

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