Hot Stove: Would Bay really have stayed?
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In light of Jason Bay's big signing in the Big Apple this week -- four years, $65 million guaranteed with the Mets -- here are a few fresh looks at how that relates to the Pirates:
• Would he really have stayed?
The answer now would look to be a resounding no, regardless of Bay's repeated and strongly expressed feelings in 2008, at least not unless the Pirates were to have offered him money equal to his free-agency value.
Consider that the Boston Red Sox had offered Bay four years at $60 million and might have gone higher. But, rather than stay in Fenway Park, with its left field virtually catered to his bat and glove, he chose to play in New York's new Citi Field, with its chasm of a left field that could engulf both. And, rather than stay in Boston, where he had his first chance to contend and likely many future chances, he chose the increasingly dysfunctional Mets.
Moreover, Bay's longstanding wish to play in Seattle -- he lives there in the offseason and hails from British Columbia -- never amounted to meaningful talks with the Mariners.
No discount was anywhere to be found, hometown or otherwise.
• Should the Pirates have kept him?
Before trading Bay, management had estimated his rate for an extension to be $12 million-$13 million annually, and that proved fairly accurate even after Bay increased his value by performing so well in Boston.
Bay is 31, so, if he had stayed, he would have stood out as part of a much younger overall group, as management was determined to rebuild the minor-league system regardless. Thus, Bay would have consumed as much as a third of the Pirates' projected payroll for 2010, essentially, to provide stability.
• Assuming management went completely the other way and kept Bay and most of the 2008 core of everyday players -- and a powerful argument could be made that pitching, not hitting or defense, was the dominant problem with that roster -- a projection of those everyday players' 2010 salaries would total $46.45 million:
Ryan Doumit: $3.55 million.
Adam LaRoche: Projected $7 million.
Freddy Sanchez: $6 million.
Jack Wilson: $5 million.
Jose Bautista: $2.4 million
Bay: $15 million
Nate McLouth: $4.5 million.
Xavier Nady: Projected $3 million.
That total comes before any pitching or bench players are added and, given that there was almost no pitching in the system, buying it from the outside likely would have taken the overall payroll into the range of $80 million.
• The only issue of these that matters now: Could the Pirates still get the better of the three-way trade?
Boston's end is complete with a year-and-a-half of a highly productive Bay -- 45 home runs, 156 RBIs in 200 games -- and now a compensatory draft pick for losing him through free agency,
Los Angeles still has Manny Ramirez.
And the Pirates, of course, have Andy LaRoche with a tenuous hold on third base, Brandon Moss sent to the bench after a .236 season, reliever Craig Hansen hoping to revive his career after a rare nerve ailment, and struggling pitching prospect Bryan Morris set to stay in high Class A for another summer in 2010.
Long way to go there.
• The Pirates have not approached Andrew McCutchen about any long-term extension this winter and, really, there is no rush: He cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season.
• Brian Bixler still struck out a ton in Mexico this winter, with 42 in 140 at-bats despite batting .300 with five home runs in 35 games. But management still has him on the 40-man roster in the hope that his defensive versatility -- he can play shortstop, second base and center field -- could make him a super-utility type. The key to cutting down the Ks, some feel, will be an adjustment with his hands, but that never is easy for a hitter.
• Quiet as the Pirates have been this offseason, expect the quantity -- if not the quality -- of free-agent signings to accelerate this month and right up to spring training. Management's preference, based on examining the glut at several positions in free agency, is to wait for what it sees as the best value. Those could end up being experienced players forced to accept minor league contracts.
• As of late this week, the list of available free agents included 43 outfielders and 53 relievers, the Pirates' preferred positions.
• Charlie Morton, one of the brighter pieces of the Pirates' pitching future, was asked this week his view of 2010: "The best thing about having such a young team was watching the group take on a responsibility that you find in a group of guys who've come to realize that they are the ones that make the difference. I started to see us as players who weren't just there to contribute, but were there to create a foundation."
• Forty-five days until pitchers and catchers report.
First Published January 3, 2010 12:00 am