Jason Bay stifles laughter - Hunter Martin

Jason Bay, Seattle Mariner

Jason Bay was so bad with the Mets that they dumped him before the end of his multi-year contract. But one man's trash is another man's potentially useful right-handed bench bat, so Bay is a Seattle Mariner now.

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So Jason Bay Happened

I neglected to mention earlier this afternoon that the Seattle Mariners officially signed Jason Bay to a one-year, major-league contract. I neglected to mention it mostly because we already knew this was coming, for days. It's a weird thing that the Internet has brought on. In the past, we would've found out today or tomorrow that the Mariners had signed Bay to a deal. Now, we knew the two sides were close earlier in the week, and we knew they had an agreement days ago. We knew almost all the particulars and details of the contract. We knew they were just waiting to make it official until after the Rule 5 draft, or something. We'd already considered the Jason Bay acquisition and developed our fully-formed opinions of it before the Mariners sent out the press release announcing the signing. In other words, by the time the Mariners would acknowledge that they had Jason Bay's signature, everyone had already moved on to thinking about other things. What about Josh Hamilton? What about Nick Swisher? That's great about this guy. What about the next guy?

I lied up there when I said "that's great about this guy" because there's nothing great about the Mariners signing Jason Bay. Not for us, as Mariners fans. I suppose there's something potentially great, but do you know what "great" means? Do you know what Jason Bay has done on baseball fields in the recent past? There's a reason Bay's contract isn't entirely guaranteed. He'll only get the other half of his $1 million base if he makes the roster out of spring training. There's a reason Bay is getting a chance, of course, but he signed this sort of contract because there's an excellent chance that he just really blows now.

Listen to the Mariners, and they'll express to you their optimism. Listen to Bay, and he'll express to you how excited he is to get this shot close to home, after a change of scenery. Remember that they basically have to sound like that. The Mariners selected Jason Bay, and Jason Bay also selected the Mariners. Both of them think there's potential here -- probably Bay, more than the Mariners' front office -- but they're not going to be publicly honest. Bay isn't going to acknowledge to the media his deep, profound fears that he's approaching the end of the road. The Mariners aren't going to acknowledge that Bay might well be a pile of crap. There's positive spin because that's just how these things go, and you shouldn't let yourself be misled by it. Maybe Bay works out. Probably, he will not do that.

It's a shot. Whatever. There's always a maybe, and Bay will certainly feel more comfortable so close to home, and maybe there were psychological complications in New York, and the guy did hit 36 dingers in 2009 and 31 dingers in 2008. Bay isn't being handed a job, and if he earns a job, he won't earn a major job. There's the potential for him to do only so much damage, and if he's actually okay, he could be somewhat popular. We'll see what he's like in spring training. That's when the Mariners will make their evaluation, and it's worth noting that Bay hasn't homered in spring training since 2010. I mean I guess that's worth noting. In spring 2010, Bay was amazing. Guess what Bay wasn't in summer 2010!

The truth is that Bay is a low-risk flyer, and the only reason this is getting so many words and so much attention is because we don't have anything better to do while we wait for the rest of the offseason to play out. You can laugh at the Mariners for picking through another team's garbage, but as a resident of Portland, Oregon, I can tell you that sometimes people throw out useful things, and the Mariners don't stand to lose anything meaningful here unless they really fuck up. It's funny that the Mariners hurried to sign Jason Bay after cutting Chone Figgins. For now it doesn't actually mean much of anything and the Mariners will continue trying to fill out their roster with players better than Jason Bay is.

The real, actual news here is that, to make 40-man roster room, the Mariners designated Mauricio Robles for assignment. That doesn't mean Robles is gone, yet, since he could make it through waivers and remain in the system, but Robles is left-handed and not 75 years old, so he could easily be claimed. Robles is actually somehow still just 23. That's neat for him. On the other hand:

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Robles lost time in 2011 to elbow surgery. He came back in 2012 and was really bad in two different places. The strikeouts show you that Robles does still have fine-enough stuff, especially for a could-be lefty reliever. The walks show you why Robles was designated for assignment this afternoon despite that. It's not every day that teams cut loose left-handed pitchers who get strikeouts in the upper minors, and since the Mariners aren't woefully incompetent, that's information of meaning.

Robles was somewhat exciting when he came over in the Jarrod Washburn trade. At that point we couldn't believe the Mariners turned Washburn into two young pitchers of probable consequence. Robles, in 2012, got designated for assignment to make roster room for Jason Bay. Luke French gave the Mariners an ERA over 5, and the last two years in triple-A, he's given his teams an ERA over 6. We thought there was value coming back in the Jarrod Washburn trade, and at the time, there was, but hands down the best thing about the Jarrod Washburn trade was when the Mariners lit him up in the middle of August. In the end, the Mariners may not have gotten anything out of the Washburn trade, but neither did the Tigers, and neither did Washburn, who hasn't pitched professionally since that September. That trade had no winners.

Maybe Robles stays in the system. In that case, neat. Maybe Robles gets claimed and goes away. In that case, good luck. We have other things to worry about. We have Jason Bay to worry about. Because as of today, officially, Jason Bay is a Seattle Mariner. In the grand scheme of things, the Mariners didn't really miss getting Bay at his career peak by that much. What's a few years, in the whole history of the universe? The Mariners missed by the blink of an eye. The Mariners have existed for the blink of an eye.

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Jason Bay Contract More Expensive Than Thought

To trace this back: there have long been rumors that Jason Bay would end up signing with the Seattle Mariners. Within the last couple days, we heard that Bay was signing with the Mariners, then we heard it would be a seven-figure contract. Then we heard it would not be a seven-figure contract. Now we hear it is a seven-figure contract. This doesn't make all of the difference, but it does make an uncomfortable difference.

This has since been confirmed by Geoff Baker. Predictably, Bay is getting a low base with playing-time incentives. The difference between six figures and seven figures here could literally be as little as a dollar, but realistically, we're only worrying about a few hundred thousand dollars. For a baseball team, it's almost negligible. It doesn't seem like it should matter very much whether Bay is given a $1 million base, or a $0.7 million base.

But it sends a message. And the message is that the Mariners might really think Jason Bay has something to offer them. I guess, on the other hand:

Bay could still get dropped between now and the start of the season. Alternatively, the roster could shift, and Bay could impress in spring training, and he could be an actual piece of actual value. This news really doesn't make much of a difference when you get down to it. It's just more money than expected for Jason Bay. It's more of a commitment overall than expected for Jason Bay. Most recently, Jason Bay has been a very bad major-league baseball player. This is a weird one. It's not a dreadful one, yet, but it's a weird one.

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Jason Bay Contract Cheaper Than Thought

The big Seattle Mariners news is nothing. The moderate Seattle Mariners news is that the Mariners have agreed to terms with Jason Bay, pending a physical. The small Seattle Mariners news is that the Bay contract isn't actually worth seven figures, as was initially reported. Proof, provided you put your trust in other people with whom you might not be personally familiar:

Financially, it's a small detail. It's the difference between, say, $1.2 million and $0.6 million. It wouldn't mean much in terms of projected roster construction. But giving Bay seven figures would've implied that the Mariners saw real, actual value instead of just potential value, in the event that Bay rebounds a little. A lesser value means the Mariners value Bay less, which is more in line with how he ought to be valued at this point.

A lesser value also means Bay is easier to drop if he doesn't achieve, or if he doesn't even get the opportunity to achieve. You don't let a six-figure contract stand in your way of anything. I'll repeat now that just because Jason Bay doesn't really fit with the current roster doesn't mean he won't fit with the roster that gets built. But Jason Bay doesn't really fit with the current roster, given who he's been lately, and given who the Mariners already have in-house.

Bay still needs to pass a physical, the Mariners' 40-man roster is full, and tomorrow brings the Rule 5 draft, so don't expect Bay to be official for some time. Feel free to commence thinking about it now, though, such that when Bay is official, you've already come to terms with it. Baseball transactions were very different 30 years ago.

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Mariners Give Jason Bay Baseball Job

There are moves that get made during the winter meetings that no one saw coming, and there are moves that get made that always felt to some degree inevitable. It was inevitable that the Giants would re-sign Marco Scutaro. It was inevitable that the Rays would trade for Yunel Escobar. And it was essentially inevitable that, at some point, the Mariners would sign Jason Bay to a small contract. That news is not yet official, but it's basically official.

This has been coming for days, if not weeks or months. There was supposedly some competition from the Indians -- this was a sweepstakes! -- but the Mariners pushed harder, or Bay preferred the Mariners, or the Indians' interest was overstated, or something or something else. That Bay will be paid seven figures instead of the minimum implies that there was more than one suitor, and it also implies that Bay has been valued at something above replacement-level. Generally, you don't just give seven figures to someone for whom you don't have a plan, because that's a not insignificant amount of money.

Much of what there is to be said about the Mariners and Jason Bay, I already said yesterday. He is another team's Chone Figgins. The Mariners are signing another team's Chone Figgins. That doesn't mean that Bay has zero chance of bouncing back and being some kind of productive, but it does mean that Bay has very recently been disastrous. Odds are much better that he's finished being good than the alternative. It's not even immediately clear how Bay fits with the Mariners' roster, since he's a good deal inferior to Casper Wells and since you don't just sign a veteran clubhouse presence who can't do anything. Bay seems like a fit for the Mariners until you examine the actual details.

But the Mariners, presumably, have a better idea of their plan for Jason Bay than I do. I'm sure we'll hear more about that later, after the team actually starts talking. And, importantly, this isn't going to be considered a solution. You can mock the Mariners now for addressing their offense with a .536 OPS, but getting Jason Bay isn't going to prevent the Mariners from continuing to pursue bigger and better options. Jason Bay is not going to be the big splash. Jason Bay might not even survive the winter or the spring. Less than a year ago, we thought Carlos Guillen, Shawn Camp, and Hong-Chih Kuo would make the Mariners' roster. Not one of them did. Bay is just an option, if he passes his physical, which he might not, because Jason Bay is riddled with question marks. They're metallic, and they show up as artifacts in CT scans.

I don't see a good purpose for the Mariners signing Jason Bay. The Mariners must, and while we can't just always trust that the Mariners will make good moves, Bay isn't doing any harm, yet. There's a long way to go before the start of the season, and there's a whole roster of baseball players the Mariners still need to figure out. I'm willing to be patient, and if Bay does make the roster, and if Bay does play, well, Oliver Perez happened. Jeff Cirillo and Scott Spiezio happened, elsewhere. Sometimes baseball players are really annoying, and sometimes they're annoying in your favor. It would be a certain kind of fun to continue to tweak the Mets.

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