Jason Bay was once one of the best outfielders in the game. From his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2004 until 2009, Bay put up a striking .280/.375/.519 line, which earned him a huge free agent contract with the Mets.
… where he summarily fell off the map, thanks in large part to an array of injuries, culminating in a brutal .165/.237/.299 stretch over his 70-game 2012 season. Signed through next year, the Mets recently paid Bay essentially the balance of what he was owed to just go away.
Now he’s looking for a job in 2013, and the Cubs have been connected to Bay. Joel Sherman reports that, although his primary suitors are the Indians and Mariners, the Cubs are also involved on the “periphery.” That suggests to me that they’ve inquired and maybe even made a modest offer.
Tim Brown says that Bay is nearing his decision on a team, so we could hear soon.
Somewhat disconcertingly, Sherman goes on to note that interest in Bay is sufficiently strong to merit a guaranteed deal, rather than a mere minor league deal/Spring Training invite. He’s not going to get much money, obviously, but that’s a guaranteed spot on the roster.
At age 34, though, you have to ask: how much value is there, even if he does bounce back?
The addition of Bay, particularly on a guaranteed deal would make a great deal more sense if the Cubs were planning to deal Alfonso Soriano, and needed to add two outfielders, rather than just one. Counting on Bay to be “the guy” in right field in 2013? Well, that’s about as white-flaggy (and not the good one with the “W” on it) as it gets. Bay essentially hasn’t played anywhere but left field since 2005.
Alternatively, Bay could simply be viewed as a 4th/5th outfielder type and bench bat – one whom the Cubs could try and put in a position to succeed (good matchups), and perhaps then shop as a bench bat at the deadline.