Jason Bay. Lyle Overbay. No, they don't play for Tampa Bay. But they may be playing for the city on the (Puget) "Sound," if the Seattle Mariners, or at least Mariners writers like Andy Augur, have their way.
In 2009, the Mariners were something like No. 7 in the American League playoff sweepstakes. That was despite American League-leading team pitching.
But "offense" is something that the Mariners have historically lacked; they were in the bottom third in this regard. Which is why they might pay a premium for it. A few more games could push them at least to No. 5, hopefully to No. 4 in their league.
Offensively, the Mariners' weakest areas are the left field and the corner infield slots. Which is where Bay and Overbay come into picture.
Jason Bay, certainly. On offense, he is a five "win above replacement" (WAR) player who would be worth $20 million, and is reportedly asking $18 million from the Boston Red Sox. What detracts from Bay's market value is his defense; to the tune of MINUS 1.5 WAR.
But the Mariners have a centerfielder in Franklin Gutierrez, who is a wide-ranging player similar to the Pirates' former Nyjer Morgan. As such, Gutierrez could "recapture" some of Bay's lost defensive WARs, making Bay worth closer to his offensive value.
And left field is currently being occupied by a platoon of replacement players. Put Bay, a genuine player in that slot, and Seattle adds ALL of his WARs (four or five, depending on Gutierrez' defensive recapture) to its total.
Overbay is a bit harder to understand. He would platoon with, or push out, Russell Branyan. Overbay is a solid, all around first baseman, with good defense and on-base percentage, and decent power, without excelling in any category.
Branyan's average is "lighter" than Overbay's, but his 31 home runs in 2009 would be a major asset to Mariners. Except that this feat is so far out of line with his earlier performance that it might not be repeatable. With a salary of only $1.4 million, he is easily releasable if he doesn't produce.
Overbay is worth about one win less than the 2009 Branyan, but one win more than the "previous" Branyan. And it's possible that a platoon arrangement (as with Overbay and Kevin Millar in Toronto) would maximize both players' contributions.
Seattle had a problem at third base with Adrian Beltre's mediocre 2009 performance. Its solution could also be Beltre, who would be two wins better if he reverted to his pre-2009 form.
Or the Mariners could sign a second baseman, move Jose Lopez to third, and let Beltre walk.
Four or five extra wins from Bay. Two from Beltre (or his ultimate replacement). Insurance in the form of Overbay. Add these wins to Seattle's 2009 base of 85, and you're in the 90-92 win range, looking at a possible wild card slot.
Or even the American League West Division, if the Los Angeles Angels falter.
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