MLB Trade Rumors: Jason Bay to the Philadelphia Phillies?

Tom MechinAnalyst IJuly 19, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 03:  Jason Bay #44 of the New York Mets hits a walk off game winning single in the tenth inning against the New York Yankees on July 3, 2011 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Could Jason Bay be a Phillie?

It sounds crazy, but it might make sense.

With less than two weeks to go before the trading deadline, the rumor mills are abuzz with chatter about which players will be on the move and who is most likely to swallow them up.  We all know who the “sellers” and “buyers” are and can take an educated guess as to which players will be moved.

Very few teams have an absolute need to move their players, but in a lot of cases, it would be in their best interest.  For instance, the Padres would be better served trading any veteran on their roster who could generate interest among the league.  Heath Bell, Chad Qualls, Mike Adams and the like all should be dealt—in order to restock their farm system and hopefully build a winner to fill beautiful Petco Park.

The Astros are going nowhere and with a new owner on board might like to unload payroll and retool the organization going forward.  They have a couple of arms (Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers) who could/will generate interest and a couple of younger everyday players (Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence) getting a lot of press.  But the Astros don’t necessarily have to deal either outfielder, as both are still young enough to build around for the future.  Jim Crane, the new owner-to-be, might want to hold onto either or both.

The New York Mets are easily the most intriguing of the potential “sellers.”  They have been playing better than expected and hanging around the race.  Potentially, they are within striking distance of the playoffs and that could make it difficult to part with key parts of their roster.

However, they absolutely have to move Carlos Beltran or risk losing him for nothing—not even draft choices.  (In order to receive draft compensation, the Mets would need to offer Beltran salary arbitration, something he may accept—they're almost guaranteeing him a raise of his 2011 salary, something the Mets cannot afford.)  

They also have Jose Reyes, perhaps the games most electrifying player, who they absolutely are going to deal—or absolutely going to hang on to and attempt to resign.  Now it appears that the Mets have decided to keep Reyes in the hopes of resigning him in the offseason.  Good luck with that.

New York also has other players that are intriguing, especially to a contender like the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phillies are desperately in need of a right-handed bat and one that can play the outfield.  The Mets are in possession of one, one who they might be just as desperate—if not more so—to unload.

At one time, Jason Bay was a terrific ball player.  He hit for a solid average and could be counted on for 30 home runs and 100 RBI every year.  After languishing most of his career in Pittsburgh he was dealt (as part of the Manny Ramirez trade) to Boston to replace the infamous slugger in Fenway.  He followed up a strong finish in 2008 with a MVP-type 2009 season, which he parlayed int a 4-year, $66 million deal from the Mets.

And his career has fallen off the charts since.

Jason Bay has been nothing short of a disaster in New York.  His OPS is more than 100 points off his career averages and his run production as middle of the order hitter has been atrocious.

What is the problem?  Has Bay lost a step?  Is his career over?  Is Citifield and its spacious dimensions in his head?  Would a change of scenery work?

Perhaps, but it will take a lot of haggling.

How desperate are the Mets to deal their beleaguered star?  How much money would they be willing to eat to move Bay?  Word around baseball is New York is willing to eat a large percentage of Carlos Beltran’s remaining contract to move him, but he’s only owed money through the end of this season.  Bay is owed $16 million each of the next two seasons, with a vesting option (and not a too difficult one to attain) of $17 million in 2014.

Would the Mets be willing to kick in $20-$23 million over the next couple of seasons to rid themselves of Jason Bay?  If the Phillies were to deal for him, they’d probably demand Bay rework the option on his contract—either increase the buyout to eliminate it or lower the salary guarantee but make it an easier option to earn.

With Bay owed a guaranteed $35 million after this season and with the Mets kicking in $20-$23 million, the Phillies would only be on the hook for about $6 million each season.  That’s significantly less than what Hunter Pence will make in arbitration the next couple of seasons. The price in prospects would also be significantly less. 

Speculation is that a deal for Hunter Pence would start with three of the “baby aces” in the minor leagues.  Now I don’t have a problem dealing the prospects for major league talent. More often than not, minor league pitching prowess turns into Carlton Loewer and Tyler Green.  But it would be regrettable if one of them turned into the next Cole Hamels and for a player like that they should get more than Hunter Pence—a terrific ball player, but not a superstar.

Jason Bay would not cost nearly as much.  The Phillies could base a package around “high ceilinged” Anthony Hewitt—whose speed and play might fit well within the confines of Citifield—and JC Ramirez, the young right-hander acquired in the Cliff Lee trade with Seattle.  They’d probably have to add another player or two to make it interesting enough for the Mets, but a deal could be worked out—even if they have to include one of their “baby aces.”

And it might be in the best interest of all three parties involved.

The Mets would rid themselves of one of their biggest free agent disasters in team history, the Phillies would get a potential impact bat for the middle of their lineup and Jason Bay would have a chance to start over somewhere fresh, in a place where you don’t have to hit balls out of the Grand Canyon to go over the fence.  

Or it could be a colossal failure and everyone loses.

There hasn’t been a peep about Jason Bay in Philadelphia.  The one thing I’ve learned from watching Ruben Amaro operate is that rarely does anyone know what his next move is.  How many of us saw Cliff Lee coming—either time?  Most of us probably hoped for Roy Halladay, but weren’t sure it could happen.

The Phillies say they have no “wiggle room” in their payroll, but getting Bay and having the Mets pay for the majority of his contract could prove financially beneficial—both today and moving forward.