Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts on Jason Bay

Jon Heyman of SI ran down the free agent market in this article. A couple mentions of the Giants caught my attention. First of all, he notes that the Giants are not pursuing Matt Holliday, but may indeed be kicking the tires on Jason Bay, whose price is lower than the younger Holliday's.

Bay would not come cheap though.

He has already dismissed a 4yr./$60MM offer from the Red Sox. The consensus is that he is definitely seeking a 5th year, something that a lot of teams are reluctant to do, especially like... all National League teams. This is due to the fact that Bay, 31, has significantly declined in left field.

Fangraphs, a leader in all kinds of crazy-ass metric Bill James hooey stats, lists Jason Bay as basically the 5th worst defensive player in baseball from 2007-2009. Based on their accurate, yet, incredibly complicated metric formula, Bay's UZR rating was off-the-charts bad in the last three years. For example, Franklin Gutierrez of Seattle led the majors in '09 with a 27.1 UZR/150 rating. In '09, Bay posted an extremely below average -11.2 UZR/150 rating. For a little perspective, Manny Ramirez, universally admired as one the worst left fielders ever, posted a -15.4 with the Blue Bastards last season.

Learn more about UZR ratings here.

Bay's hitting is not in doubt here. The man averaged 26 dongs and 100 RBI in the 7 seasons since he became an every day player. He also has an .898 OPS in the last three years.

So, Bay can hit, we knew that. What we're finding out, is that any National League team that has to stick him in left field every day will be sacrificing defense. At this point, the Giants, and us fans, would willingly do that. For Christ's sake, Fred Lewis manned left for 83 games last year. (And for the record, somehow Lewis posted a +5.9 UZR/150 rating. WTF is right.)

Realistically, if Bay is looking for a 5 year deal at $13-15MM per, the Giants should run for the hills. If he's declining defensively at this rate, he'll be worse than Bonds in his final 2 years in left. Now, if they are somehow able to rid themselves of Rowand deal for another bad contract that ends earlier, Bay might be more feasible.

In all reality though, Bay is a ideal fit for an AL team with a ton of money to spend and a DH spot to fill... such as New York, Boston, and the Angels, with I believe Seattle, as a potential dark horse.

Seattle is interesting because they need a big bat, and Bay is from British Columbia. The bizarre Junior Griffey resigning clogs up the DH spot a bit, but Bay's D is still acceptable enough to play 110 games in left. If the price is right, I think Bay would jump at the chance to play in a low key market close to his old stomping grounds.

The thing about Bay, is that he's looking to get paid more than anything else. This is a soft-spoken Canadian guy who spent years in Pittsburgh, toiling in anonymity, losing, and with zero protection in the lineup. Couple that with the fact that he's made a total of less than $20MM in his career in return for putting up superb offensive numbers, makes him prime "top bidder bait".

And as we know, teams that can make themselves the top bidders for top offensive talent are generally in the AL and generally play in the eastern time zone. So go figure.

We will get a better indication of what they really have to spend once Lincecum, Sanchez, and B Weezy get their arbitration raises.

Thoughts on Johnny Damon coming soon...

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