Bay Seasoning for the Mets

1. How did Mike Francesca break the Jason Bay to the Mets story on his Tuesday program after teasing it Monday? How did all of the writers both on the Mets beat and on the national beat miss it?

2. More importantly what does the signing do for the Mets?
An Upgrade

Immediately, the 31-year-old Bay will improve the Mets left field position.  In 699 plate appearances in 2009, Mets LF hit .276/.352/.421 with 35 2B, 9 3B and just 12 HR. In 2009 for Boston, Bay hit .267/.384/.537 with 29 2B and a career-high 36 home runs. Bay’s ability to get on base and hit for power will be welcome additions to the Mets lineup.

However, Mets pitchers, should reasonably fear Bay’s work in right field at Citi Field. Bay’s Ultimate Zone Rating in 2009 was -13. By UZR’s calculations, he has cost his team at least 10 runs afield every year since 2007, and the only year in which he has been a positive contributor defensively was 2006. Clay Davenport’s system also rates Bay as a below average defender. Moreover, he’s likely to become a worse defender as he ages.
Value vs. Holliday

The Mets have reportedly signed Bay for $66 million over four years ($16.5 million annually) with an “easy” vesting option for the fifth year that will push the deal’s total value to roughly $80 million. As Dave Studeman points out, Bay fit the Mets need for both a left fielder and a power hitter. To me, the Mets’ needs, and market considerations, render the analysis here at Fangraphs which calls the signing a “significant overpay” based on a market value of $3.5 million per WAR, a little limited. The Mets needed a left fielder who hits for power.  They needed a player who can help them make a run at the Phillies.

The question for me is whether the money they spent on Bay would have been better spent on Matt Holliday. Following Bay’s signing, ESPN reported that Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras, is now asking teams for roughly $18 million dollars annually, or $1.5 more than the Mets are paying Bay.

If the ESPN report is accurate, the Mets will be paying nearly top dollar for the second best player on the market, for a similar contract length.  That’s not good. To recap here are Bay and Holliday’s WAR valuations since 2005:


Bay Holiday
2005 6.4 3.3
2006 5.5 4.4
2007 0 8
2008 2.9 6.3
2009 3.5 5.7

Holiday has been the better player, by a significant amount every year since 2007.   What reasonable explanation is there to think that Bay, who is a year and a half older, will be better moving forward?

Offense Only

Keith Law argues that Fenway’s Green monster makes Bay appear worse defensively than he actually is. However, he ranked as a below average defender even before he reached Boston.   By contrast, among LF with more than 600 innings, Holliday was the seventh best defender this past season and has been consistently above average.

Even if you accept Law’s argument, that fielding statistics generated in left field at Fenway Park are invalid, Holliday still outperforms Bay when examining only the two players’ offensive contributions. Take a look at the following table which examines the two by VORP, which is measured in runs not wins, and considers only a player’s offense, for the last four years:


Bay Holliday
2006 48.7 57.7
2007 5.6 76.7
2008 49.4 61.9
2009 46.4 58.2

To Yank or Not?

Is the signing entirely explained by the fact that the Mets are enamored of Jason Bay’s pull approach?   Hittracker.com,  has the scatter plots of the true ending distances for all of Jason Bay and Matt Holliday’s 2009 homeruns. The scatterplot for Bay comes first.   All  but five of Bay’s homeruns were hit to the left of straightaway center field,  and most were pulled towards the left-field corner.

Bay_Jason_2009_scatter

Matt Holliday’s scatter chart follows.   Unlike Bay, Holliday uses the whole field to hit his home runs.

Holliday_Matt_2009_scatter

Here   are all of the home runs hit at Citi Field in 2009:

Citi Field looks like  it would cost both ballplayers some long balls.  Primarily, it would cost Bay on balls hit into the left-field corner and it would cost Holliday on balls to right center.   Is this a significant enough reason to prefer Bay over Holliday?   Not for me it’s not.

Moving Forward

Which player would age better over the life of his contract?   Entering 2009, PECOTA,  showed Holliday holding his value longer than Bay.

The Organization

What does the Bay signing tell us about how the Mets view the future of prospects Ike Davis and Fernando Martinez?   Probably not much. On the other hand, it indicates that the team realizes that it can not count on Jeff Francoeur repeating his Mets half of the 2009 season.  Martinez, who will be 21 to start 2010, now looks headed for Buffalo, where he will try to  stay healthy for the first time in a full season. Should  Francouer return to his  below replacement level struggles that marked his time before the Mets, and Martinez is hitting in AAA,  he will return for his second chance in the big leagues. Also likely, Ike Davis will join Fernando Martinez to start 2010 at Buffalo. Unless the Mets add a first baseman, Davis has a chance to hit his way into the New York lineup during the 2010 season.

Long-term,  the presence of both Davis and Martinez potentially limits the Mets options with Bay. In theory, the Mets could move Bay to firstbase at the end of his contract to mitigate his poor defense in left field. However, Mets fans expect Davis to be the Mets starting first baseman by 2011 or even by late 2010. Davis’s potential ascendance would keep Bay in the outfield. On the other hand, Davis who played in the outfield for the US team at the baseball World Cup this fall, could potentially move to the outfield to accommodate Bay.  Shifting players in this manner hardly seems like the recipe for replicating the strong team defense which helped carry the Mets in 2007 and 2008.

Conclusion

I have been a fan of Jason Bay for a long time. However, he was not the best leftfielder on the market this winter,  that honor belonged to Matt Holliday.   As it now stands, Holliday appears to be poised to make more money than Bay, both on a per anum basis  and on the lifetime of the contract.

The Mets got their left fielder. He gives the team a better chance to win in 2010. Even so, I think the team picked the wrong leftfielder.

There are 21 comments

  1. fonzy888

    Nice job, Toby; pretty much agree across the board. We’ll wait to see the contract particulars, but you pretty much know the option includes a $2M buyout, so the contract is really $68 guaranteed for 4 ($17M). You hope he can give you a couple of .900 OPS seasons and then not hamper you too terribly bad for the last 3 years (which is pretty much Omar’s MO, handing out contracts like that). Holliday was the move. And incidentally, the Sox only commit to Cameron for two years ($7.5M/year) and get a guy who’s posted WAR’s of 4.3 and 4.1 the last two years.

    The Mets FO is approaching unmitigated ineptness (which will only be ratified when they announce Molina for 2 years, $12M). Man, it would be nice to be a fan of a smart team

    1. mark4212

      I wouldn’t say this is a terrible contract by any means. Bay isn’t ancient he’s 31, should still be relatively productive for the near future. What worries me is that stupid 5th year vesting option that was included, which from what I gather will click in probably after the 3rd year which means if he’s bad the 4th year were stuck with him.

      I also don’ tthink cameron will be as good as he has been and he’s way older at 37. He was cheaper and the contract is shorter, but Bay is a better player then Cameron.

      I do agree with Toby and the should have just signed Holliday at 18 mil for 5-6 years. It was easier and made more sense. He’s the better all around player.

  2. fonzy888

    I’m drastically simplying this whole thing, making projections and outlandish assumptions that we can sign any guy we want, and for argument’s sake using average salary (as opposed to ’10 salary), but this is what it most likely will come down to:

    We’ll be paying something like $30-31M for Bay ($17 – I fully realize this will be backloaded, read above), Frenchy ($5.5), Molina ($6), and Cora ($2).

    We could have paid the same amount for Holliday ($18), Pagan starting in RF with whoever (Jesus Feliciano, anyone i don’t care) taking Frenchy’s (non-tendered) roster spot for league minimum ($400k), any of Santos/Coste/Thole ($400k) taking Molina’s roster spot and Blanco penciled in as opening day starter, Sheets ($8M – plus incentives), Jose Coronado (again, ANYONE) making league minimum ($400k) in place of Cora, and still had another $4M to throw towards Chapman (or some variant of this plan that also makes sense)

    1. Duke

      Pagan who ran into outs and showed last year a total inability to play intuitively. Thole who clearly is not ready to be relied upon as a starting catcher? Mr. injured Sheets? I’m glad you are not the GM.

      Toby-I do not think anyone doubts that Holliday is the better player. The only problem with the analysis is that everyone is pretty sure he is going back to St. Louis and the Mets were just being used to up the ante. Secondly, no way Holliday signs with the Mets for what Boras is saying now because Boras would not have allowed it with Bay still in the market.

      If the Mets did not sign Bay I think there is a great chance that they would have ended up with nobody.

      1. mark4212

        I do not agree with that. They could have offered the highest contract to Holliday, 5 years 18 mil with a 6th year option, and sat and waited. What i think happened is they had their offers out to each, Bay and his agent blinked first and took the mets offer. Boras won’t get the last laugh and actually has cost Holliday money but telling him to hit the FA market and not re-up with the Rockies with the offer he had 2 years ago.

        Holliday would have come to the mets, Boras and his players always, repeat, ALWAYS go where the money is.

      2. fonzy888

        first of all, mr. “ran into outs” posted a WAR of 2.8 in 343 ab’s vs. Frenchy who posted a WAR of 0.3 in 593 ab’s. Bay’s WAR was 3.5 and Holliday’s 5.7 (with Bay playing in a better home park).

        so my plan results in 8.5 WAR for Pagan and Holliday for about $18.6/year. your plan results in 3.8 WAR for Frenchy and Bay for about $22.5/year. my plan gives you almost (based strictly on last year, granted) almost 5 extra wins, saves you almost $4M, and gives you a marginally weaker bench.

        as for Thole, if you chose to actually read, you would have seen that I said ANY of santos/coste/thole (as a BACKUP to blanco – and you wouldn’t want thole backing up so that wouldn’t even have a chance of coming to fruition. it would be blanco and one of santos/coste to backup). never once did i say thole was the starting catcher, or even come close to saying that.

        Mr. Injured Sheets (boy, you sure are clever with the nicknames!) is obviously a huge risk, but the entire ’10 season will rely on incredible luck for us to compete for a playoff spot anyway. You give Sheets a year and hope he’s healthy and good and maybe you win the WC. If not, you haven’t hurt your team at all for future years.

        And again, my plan STILL saves $4M to use towards Chapman or some other better use of resources vs. Bay/Molina/Frenchy. learn to use your brain

      3. Duke

        Well I will stay civil and not get dragged into the gutter.

        I guess that’s why WAR is misleading isn’t it? Here’s a hint-limited sample size. Pagan is not a starting outfielder.

        Thole as a backup to Blanco? Good move there-a nice black hole at catcher. How many games can Blanco catch as the everyday starting catcher? Oh and not to worry Thole is the backup?

        Oh yes Mr. Sheets-let’s bag the clever nickname. So let’s put Mr. Sheets with a mix of other pitchers who were all on the disabled list last year.

        Personally I think Sheets at the right cost will be a good move. But you are the one talking about an inept GM.

        So tell me smart guy, after Omar signs Sheets and he gets injured, like he consistently has throughout his career, what do you think the media headline would be about Omar’s “ineptness”?

      4. fonzy888

        for the second time, read what i said: “you wouldn’t want thole as a backup…one of santos/coste would be backing up blanco”

        and Bay is a fine player. of course he makes the team better for next year. that isn’t the point. the point is what is the best use of resources (for the length of the contract). stop using generics like pagan “isn’t a starting outfielder” and consider whether he (at $600k) is a better choice than Francouer (at roughly $5-6M). the answer is a resounding yes.

        if Omar is making decisions based on ‘what the media headline would be’, I’d be even more frightened of him being the GM than I already am. he makes the occasional clever move (I like/love the Igarashi and Escobar signings for the risk/reward) and then he ruins it with a move like Bay. he all too often falls into the obvious move (krod, ollie, bay) when there are much better alternatives. the red sox letting Bay walk and signing Cameron speaks volumes as to how a good team s/b run. you load up your resources when a real true difference maker comes around (Beltran, Santana, I’d argue Holliday in this class or at least very close), or if you have a virtually unlimited payroll like the Yanks. otherwise, stay flexible, stay young, and go for the guy like Cameron vs. Bay (considering $/years, obviously) every day of the week.

        every year Omar makes a “splash” in the offseason, the trouble is that it’s rarely a good use of the $ he’s been given to work with. i will say that i look forward to all the ‘OMG! Where are the Omar bashers now?!!?’ posts that will be coming by the third week of April when Bay hits his 5th HR, not realizing that the argument against Bay and for Holliday (or alternative…Cameron, doing nothing, etc) has nothing to do with how Bay will hit next year.

      5. starz31

        The answer is a resounding yes if you’re the Marlins. I’d rather pay for the better player in Francoeur than for the 4th OF’er in Pagan.

        Holliday is good. He’s a better all-around player than Bay. Agreed. But we already have a Matt Holliday-like-bat on our team and his name is David Wright. We needed power and Bay has more power than Holliday.
        IMO, a 6 year deal for Holliday is far worse than a 4-year for Bay. He’s good, but he’s not worth what Boras is seeking. And what it would cost us if we actaully got into negotiations for him. He’s not worth Beltran’s contract, which is essentially what he is seeking and may have gotten with at least 2 teams bidding for him (he may not get that now that Bay and the Mets are out of the LF market).

        The problem has never been that Omar makes the splashy moves. In fact, those splashy moves have all been good moves (Krod was a great signing, and a great contract btw) The problem is that he always stops after that splashy move. It’s the other moves that he has failed in. Acquiring Johan was great, but he stopped there and didn’t improve the bullpen. the Putz/krod deals were great, but he stopped there and didn’t upgrade the rotation. He has failed to once provide us with quality depth and role-players. Not signing Bay though, would leave us with role-players as starters, something we do not need.

      6. Toby Hyde

        With the option, Bay’s deal will probably be for five years and $80+ million. Holliday will get what six or maybe seven years?

      7. Toby Hyde

        Duke,

        I think Holliday would have come to the Mets, if they had offered him the most money. However, for reasons I don’t understand, the Mets focused their efforts on Bay. Negotiating with Boras is always difficult, and costly. At times, that’s because he represents the best players. The issue you raise is interesting. Would the Mets have had to pay more for holiday, then St. Louis will likely end up paying for him, because of their status as one of the New York teams? I can’t answer that.

  3. NickM

    I worry about this contract in the final years when his defense is truly terrible and hes making a bunch of cash (if its back-loaded). He should be alright the first 2 or 3 years.

  4. MarcMangot

    Nice job, Toby. I fully agree. Holliday would have been the better signing for LF, but at the same time, Bay does improve the team. The disappointing thing is that the Bay signing is once again a less efficient use of a limited resource (dollars in the budget). If the Mets had the Yankees budget, the inefficiency wouldn’t be as big of a deal.

    The shame will be if this signing now stops the Mets from fully addressing their remaining needs – i.e., upgrading their offense at 1B, signing a serviceable catcher, improving defense at 2B (too much to ask, I know) and improving the starting rotation. Even though the Mets have stopped short of completing their roster in each of the past 3 years (always just filling the glaring holes, rather than truly constructing a winning team), I’m going to be a fan and hope that the off-season has more to bring. At least a big step has been taken.

    On Francesca – I’ve been thinking that this was just a PR move on the Mets part. Whether you like him or not, he is the biggest name in the NY sports talk scene and he has killed the Mets at times on the air. Why not curry favor with the guy and hope that he’s kinder and gentler in the future?

  5. oleosmirf

    what people seem to be missing is that you have no idea if Holiday wanted to play for the Mets.

    Sure Holliday is a better choice but what both Lackey and Doc Halliday said no to the Mets. Its very possible that Holliday said no as well…

  6. wright3b

    I would rather pass on both BAY (who we signed) and Holiday.

    I would rather keep all our draft picks – we lose the 2nd with this signing

    I would wait until next offseason to bring in Crawford for LF but that is now OVER

    Crawford is a MUCH better glove guy – will hit the gaps and runs well

    (with Reyes and Crawford running they will turn singles into doubles easy)

    I would bring in Garko to play 1st with lefties on the hill – I still think he will be a good player (not great)

    I think this bay deal will be looked back as another Castillo deal – Bay is another way to lock up the roster

    MAN does Boston love this organozation – draft pick for Martinez draft picks for Wagner Draft pick for BAY ———– Boston fans when you win it all over again make sure to thank the WILPONS

    1. Paul W

      What happens when Crawford signs with another team, like the one across town? Are you that concerned about a second round pick, especially the way the Mets have drafted over the years? Using your logic, you’d better hope that all of those draft picks that you’ve saved turn out to be studs because by the time those guys are major league ready, Wright, Santana, Beltran, and Reyes may all be wearing different uniforms. A long term outlook is certainly important, but given the protected first round pick this year, it was an ideal time to sign an impact Type A FA…unfortunately, I think they signed the second best option.

  7. starz31

    I like this discussion and I like your points Toby, but I just don’t think Holliday is worth the money and years that he was requesting. I’d rather have 4 years of Bay than 6 of Holliday. Straight up, its a different story. Although, in that case Bay’s style of hitting fits this team well b/c we already have Matt Holliday, and his name is David Wright (hits for average, power to all fields). While Wright did bat in a horrible lineup in 2009, there was an adjustment to the new stadium for him. Who knows what happens with Holliday.

    Bay essentially replaces Delgado’s bat. What’s not to like there?

    I understand the criticism for Bay vs. Holliday. But I do not understand any other criticism. I’ve read how Bay will be a bust. How his contract is worse than Castillo’s. I do not get that one bit. This is a great move for our team. We’ll be just fine.

  8. gnicholl

    Does that HR chart…take into account drives hit into the wall at Fenway…that would go out in NY?

    Looking at his home and away splits….tells you Jason Bay will do fine at Citi.

  9. Metstastic

    I just wanted to point out something that no bothers to point it… The 18 mill is based on the premise that Bay signs for cheaper! I don’t remember the exact amount.. but wasn’t Boras asking for 20 mill / season for 7 years.. or something in that range? If Bay didn’t sign for that amount, Boras would never ask for 18 mill! So.. all this talk of “we could have had Holliday for 18 mill” and “it’s a better value”.. is MOOT!

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