But with Bay inching closer to the Citi Field exit, here’s what likely happens next. He finishes this season in his new part-time role and then returns for spring training next year (for those screaming trade, don’t waste your breath).
At that point, Bay will have roughly a month to prove he can be a productive piece in the Mets’ lineup. That should provide Bay the opportunity to show he can do more than slap grounders to the left side of the infield or strike out, his signature contributions of the past two seasons.
But if that trend continues, and there appears to be no bottom to Bay’s spiral, the solution is unavoidable. He’ll have to be released before Opening Day, with the Mets picking up the remaining $19 million on his tab — $16 million salary, $3 million buyout of his 2014 option.
That sounds spot-on to me. Much was made yesterday of Sandy Alderson saying that the team would not eat Jason Bay’s contract, but what would anyone expect him to say? “Yeah, actually I’m quite sick of seeing him ground out weakly to the shortstop and can’t wait to cut him loose, $19 million be damned.”
Alderson keeps it tight, as he should. Here’s what I said in June:
The Mets will and should give Bay every chance to make good on his contract. Since it hasn’t happened yet and the injuries are 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.
I’m sticking to that story. I’ll add that I expect some segment of the Mets’ fanbase to fret like hell over the possibility of Bay making the team out of the gate in 2013 over some better or younger player, just as some did in 2010 with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. Unless Scott Hairston leaves in free agency and the Mets can’t find any other righty- or switch-hitting outfielder who’s anything close to a Major Leaguer or Bay shows up to camp magically and legitimately rejuvenated, it’s hard to see how he fits on a big-league roster.