If it were about three years ago, that headline would have been really exciting. Not so much now. Of course, if the Mariners would have signed Bay three years ago, they would likely have been the ones eating $21 million to let Bay test free agency this year.
It’s not official, but the Mariners have signed Jason Bay, pending a physical. No terms have been released, but reportedly it’s a one year deal for $3 million (Edit- there’s now news that this is false and it’s for less than $1 mil. No official news, so just wait and see). Some background, if you need it: Bay is an outfielder from British Columbia who was one of the top free agents coming off the 2009 season. The Mariners were reportedly interested in him then, and he in them, but the Mets blew everyone away with a 4 year, $66 million deal. Bay promptly fell apart. He was their Chone Figgins, at nearly twice the money. After this past season, Bay and the Mets renegotiated his contract so that some of the money he is owed for this year is deferred, and then the Mets granted him free agency. Basically, they declared him a lost cause, changed his contract so that they have a little money to spend this year, and gave up on Bay.
The Mariners taking a chance on Bay seemed a foregone conclusion, so this signing should come as no surprise. In his prime, he was a power-hitting outfielder, and if you haven’t noticed, the Mariners are searching incredibly hard for one of those. Bay is a long way from his prime, and I, along with nearly everyone else, am skeptical he’ll ever get back to even close his previous level. I’d say the odds are much better that he doesn’t last past April than that he has a major impact for the Mariners. Still, there’s a chance that he’ll feel rejuvenated coming back home and the Mariners get a cheap contributor. Unlikely, but not impossible.
I’ve already heard grumbling about the size of the contract. It’s definitely more than I expected, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s only a one year deal, and that amount isn’t going to prevent them from cutting him if he has nothing. It’s no big deal. If you’re concerned about this preventing the Mariners from acquiring a better bat, don’t be. They still have plenty of money. And please don’t react like this is the only move they’re going to make. There will be plenty of people saying, “Stupid Mariners, cheap as usual. They think they can bring in a washed up local guy and call it good.” If they haven’t picked up anyone else by the start of the season, complain all you want, but they are working hard to bring in someone else. They are literally talking to or about every hitter who’s even potentially available. If they can find someone better to bring in they, they’ll get him. This is just the move that could be made right now.
In summary, Jason Bay is a lottery ticket. He might help, but probably won’t. The Mariners know this just as well as we do. The fact that they thought it worth taking a chance on Bay is a good sign. The contract is no big deal, even if he never plays an inning in Seattle. The winter meetings are still going, so I’ll post something if anything happens, and I’ll try to do a recap tonight or tomorrow if I get the chance. For now, follow MLB Trade Rumors for all the M’s news compiled in one easy spot. Believe big!