Mets Finally Snag a Big One: New York Signs Jason Bay to Four-Year Deal.

Jason Bay certainly has talent at the plate, but the Mets still have plenty of holes left to fill in they want to catch Philadelphia.

After a relatively low-key beginning to the offseason the New York Mets took a major step towards reestablishing themselves in the NL East on Tuesday, signing free-agent slugger Jason Bay. Along with Matt Holliday, Bay was one of the most prized bats in a fairly weak free agent crop and should be able to help an anemic Mets’ offense that was one of the worst in all of baseball during the 2009 season. The deal is reportedly worth $66 million over the next four seasons, with a vesting option for 2014.    

Despite the fact that Bay hit 36 home runs last season there seemed to be little real interest around the league for the 31-year left fielder. The economy is partly to blame, with many teams cutting payroll and avoiding big name free-agents, but Bay’s defensive ability has also been scrutinized–a problem that may be exacerbated in spacious Citi Field. Although he still possesses good speed (13 stolen bases last season) and plate discipline, Bay is increasingly becoming a one-dimensional player, making teams hesitant to commit a long-term contract to someone who hits for power and contributes little else. The Red Sox originally looked like the frontrunners to resign Bay but after acquiring Jon Lackey and Mike Cameron last week, it became clear that he was no longer part of their plans for 2010. The Seattle Mariners were also rumored to be a player in the Bay sweepstakes (he played his college ball at Gonzaga in Washington) but the team traded for a left fielder in Milton Bradley and weren’t likely to meet his salary demands regardless. New York was always the logical destination for Bay, but does that mean it’s the right move for both sides?   

Will a return to the National League benefit Jason Bay and the Mets?

A top-tier power broker, Bay won a Silver Slugger award for his work at this dish in 2009, hitting .267 with 36 longballs, 119 RBI’s and 103 runs. Although he struck out a career-high 162 times last season, Bay coaxed 94 walks out of opposing hurlers, which led to a healthy .384 OBP. Bay benefited from playing in a strong Boston lineup last year, but showed his ability to thrive in the clutch, hitting .360 with runners in scoring position. He should be an immediate upgrade for the Mets as their cleanup hitter, protecting number three hitter David Wright and helping to set the table for Carlos Beltran and the rest of New York’s lineup. The team hit a league low 95 home runs last year (led by David Murphy’s 12) and at the very least, Bay should allow them to reach triple digits in long balls for 2010. With a healthy Jose Reyes, Beltran, Wright and Bay anchoring their lineup, the Mets will have a strong lineup on paper, but the team still needs to add more depth (first base, catcher, right field) if they want to match the Phillies firepower in the NL East.  

While Bay was one of the best players available this offseason, his signing doesn’t come without some question marks. The Mets’ new stadium, Citi Field, is one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks in baseball with deep power alleys and lots of foul territory. For Bay, whose primary value comes from his ability to hit the ball out of the park, this might prove to be a difficult transition from Fenway’s short porch in left field (though Citi Field is easier on right-handed pull hitters than other batters). Moreover, Bay will have to cover a much more expansive outfield than he did in Boston, though the Mets claim his defense suffered from the Green Monster. With the deal likely to reach five years and $80 million dollars the Mets must believe that Bay is a good fit for their lineup and park (especially in the last few years of the deal when he’s 35 and 36), or the team is once again just throwing cash at a problem and hoping it goes away.

Has that ever worked?

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