I’m going to guess false. Bay has a couple of things working to his advantage, assuming staying on the Mets is an advantage: His contract and his handedness.
Bay is owed $19 million after this season. In Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, Sandy Alderson showed a willingness to part ways with highly priced veterans who didn’t appear apt to help the club. But if Bay can’t turn it around in 2012 and doesn’t look likely to help the Mets in 2013, it shouldn’t matter how much he’s owed. It might be tough for the club to stomach swallowing that much sunk cost, but if they can find a guy at or slightly above the league minimum they think can outproduce Bay — which doesn’t seem unreasonable — then, you know, peace out.
Bay does hit right-handed, which is valuable to the Mets because of their glut of lefty-hitting outfielders. With Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter in the fold and Matt den Dekker coming up the pike, Bay could balance out the mix a little. Again, though, it doesn’t seem crazy to imagine the Mets finding a righty-hitting outfielder that can outproduce Bay against lefties on the cheap. Scott Hairston, for example.
The Mets will and should give Bay every chance to make good on his contract. Since it hasn’t happened yet, and with the injuries piling up, it doesn’t seem likely to happen. And this front office doesn’t seem prone to carrying players that can’t pull their weight just because they’re paying them. I’d guess Bay comes to Spring Training, we read a couple stories about how he’s in the best shape of his life, and the Mets keep him around while the roster picture clears up. If no one gets hurt and he isn’t 2009 (or even 2010) Jason Bay again, they cut him loose late or send him packing in a Gary Matthews Jr.-style deal, provided he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause.
But trying to predict things in baseball is often a fool’s errand.
There were a bunch of questions similar to this one. As Rob suggests, the Mets should be reluctant to trade prospects for bullpen help. Trading for relievers at the deadline is generally a really bad way to get good value for your young players. And that seems especially likely this season, with more teams in the Wild Card hunt and the price of rental players (presumably) inflated. Flags fly forever and prospects are no safe bet to pan out, so if there was some way the Mets could guarantee that trading a prospect would net them a World Series win, it’d be worth it. Since there isn’t, hanging on to the young guys seems like the best way to win a championship. It doesn’t help or hurt the team’s chances this year, and it doesn’t hinder them for years to come either.
That said: The Mets could use some bullpen help. I suspect their biggest help will come from regression to the mean — bullpen performances are fickle and exist only in small sample sizes, and Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez and Jon Rauch are all probably better than they have been this year.
An extra quality arm would sure be nice, though. Justin Hampson earned the first crack at being the second lefty in the bullpen. If he can’t cut it, maybe Edgin will get a look. The Triple-A relievers that appear most likely to help the 2012 Mets’ bullpen are a couple of familiar ones, though: Manny Acosta and Pedro Beato.
Acosta has been lights-out in a small sample since returning to the Bisons, posting a 1.32 ERA with 15 strikeouts and no walks in 13 2/3 innings. He was almost unfathomably bad in the early part of the year with the Mets, but pretty good for the big club in 2010 and 2011. If whatever was wrong is better now, Acosta could again provide some quality innings out of the bullpen down the stretch. The ERA will be ugly all year.
Beato has also pitched well in Buffalo, striking out 16 and walking eight (three of them intentionally) while yielding a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings. He’s throwing in the low-to-mid-90s again and says he feels fully healthy after shoulder soreness sidelined him for the early part of the season.
Mejia to the Bullpen version 2.0 looks like it’s somehow going even worse than it did the first time around. Maybe something clicks for him and he figures out how to throw strikes in a relief role, but right now he doesn’t look anywhere near ready to help the big club there.
My first instinct was to assume confirmation bias, but I went to the gamelog. The Mets are 6-12 in their first games after traveling this year and have been outscored 106-82 in them.
But 18 games, you know, is a small sample size. And I don’t think it’s enough to rule out randomness. One of those rough losses came with Chris Schwinden on the mound in Colorado and another was Johan Santana’s oddly scheduled return after the no-hitter. It’s something worth keeping an eye on, I suppose, but it’s too soon to rule out noise. The Mets have, at times, played some pretty bad baseball in the middle of homestands and at the end of road trips too. And they’ve had some pretty strong games the first day after traveling that get swept under the rug a bit when we’re trying to identify a trend.