Late yesterday evening, Seattle Mariners rumor activity picked up, as it is wont to do at these things. The Mariners were said to have met with Josh Hamilton (or his representation), the Mariners were said to have met with the Diamondbacks to talk Justin Upton, and the Mariners were also strongly linked to free-agent Jason Bay. The Hamilton rumors are exciting, even if you don't support them, because to declare something as exciting isn't necessarily an endorsement. The Upton rumors are exciting in a very similar way. The Bay rumors seem the most likely, as Mike Salk suggested the Mariners are close to reaching an agreement. This isn't a new thing -- Bay has been linked to the Mariners since he was dropped by the Mets -- but this is the strongest indication yet that something could actually happen.
To you, Jason Bay probably has some lingering name value, because you recall the Mariners being interested in him before, and because you recall he used to be a slugger. The Mariners are known to be in the market for a power-hitting corner outfielder. Bay was born in British Columbia and he went to school in Washington state, so given that Bay would also come cheap, it's easy to see a mutual fit. An available Jason Bay signing with the Seattle Mariners wouldn't send shockwaves through the winter meetings, or any place.
But here's the thing about Jason Bay, in case you haven't been paying real close attention: Jason Bay is another team's Chone Figgins. That's not to say that Bay has zero chance of ever bouncing back to some approximation of what he was. Bay's just been through some real shit. He's 34. Figgins is 34. Bay's coming off a .536 OPS. Figgins is coming off a .533 OPS. The Mets cut Bay, and the Mariners cut Figgins. As much as you might laugh at another team expressing interest in Chone Figgins, so would Mets fans laugh at another team expressing interest in Jason Bay.
Like Figgins, Bay was last good in 2009, and he was real good, then. That's a long time in the past, and players change. Figgins hasn't gone through anything we might consider potentially career-threatening injuries, but Bay's had concussion problems, and various other problems, too. Whatever mobility he once had in the outfield has been substantially reduced, and the 26 homers he's hit since 2010 are ten fewer than he hit in 2009 and five fewer than he hit in 2008. Bay might still be able to hit lefties a little bit, but a platoon DH who doesn't run well in the outfield isn't a major upgrade to the Mariners, or any kind of meaningful upgrade.
There's no risk to the Mariners taking Bay on to see what he can do, in theory, but the fit isn't as obvious as it seems to be immediately, because it isn't truly there. It's like a door that somebody painted onto a doorless wall. From a distance, you think, hey, a door that I can walk through! Up close, you're like, just kidding! I am not a ghost! The Mariners already have Casper Wells on the roster, and he's capable of actual, valuable outfield defense at a number of positions. A team with Casper Wells and Jesus Montero and many of the rest of the current Seattle Mariners doesn't have a place for Jason Bay to find playing time.
Since 2010, Bay's been worth something like a win over replacement. He used to be a very good hitter. Every very good hitter reaches the point at which he's not a very good hitter anymore, and won't be again. Odds are Bay has reached or is beyond that point, and he's not worth getting excited over. For the Mariners, he might not be worth anything. We laughed at the suggestion that there were baseball reasons the Mariners might hang onto Chone Figgins in 2013. Mets fans would laugh at the same thing being said about Jason Bay. Nothing's impossible, but Jason Bay being a contributor in the short-term doesn't seem possible enough. As an acquisition, I just really wouldn't get it.