This required more than 140 characters in response so I figured I’d tackle it here. Then I realized I forgot to post an over-under poll this morning so I lumped them together.
If whatever happened to Bay when he joined the Mets was some sort of light-switch thing and he can flip it back on and again hit like he did for most of his career before he joined the Mets, I have to imagine Sandy Alderson and the SABRos would be thrilled to be able to part ways with Bay’s contract even if the outfielder is playing well. I’m not sure how long he’d have to hit, how long he’d have to do it or how much of Bay’s contract the Mets would be willing to eat, but since it doesn’t appear likely that Bay will contribute to the Mets’ next contender, it seems safe to say they’d love to clear some of his salary to (hopefully) invest elsewhere.
If the switch stays off and Bay plays the way he did in 2010 and 2011, it’s hard to see why he’d keep his starting job in the Mets’ outfield if the team’s outfield prospects in the high Minors succeed. There’s the personnel aspect to it, of course, and the arbitration-clock factor. But if come June both Bay and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are hitting like they did in 2011 at their respective levels and the Mets want to win as many ballgames as possible, it’d be difficult to justify keeping Bay in the starting lineup — especially if Lucas Duda is struggling defensively in right and would benefit from a move across the outfield.
But that’s all pure speculation and based on no actual inside information whatsoever. Also, if I’m considering those possibilities, I need also consider that Bay turns the dimmer switch just a bit back toward brightness and hits well enough to keep the Minor Leaguers at bay (npi) but not well enough to fetch interest in a trade. Or Nieuwenhuis gets hurt again, Juan Lagares returns to his underwhelming 2010 form, Matt den Dekker doesn’t hit and there are no young players ready in waiting if and when Bay struggles. Or Duda or Ike Davis gets hurt, prompting a defensive shuffle that brings a prospect to the big leagues but doesn’t replace Bay.
Essentially, there are many feasible scenarios wherein Bay is not the Mets’ starting left fielder by the end of 2012 and many in which he is. So all that meant nothing.
Bay started 92 games for the Mets in his concussion-shortened 2010 season and 121 games in 2011.