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.
Source: mariners sign Jason bay. Deal agrees to pending physical— Andy Martino (@MartinoNYDN) December 5, 2012
#Mariners not announcing yet, but source confirms they've said signed OF Jason Bay.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) December 5, 2012
Jason bay finalizing deal with mariners. Major league deal for seven figures— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 5, 2012
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.