News broke Wednesday afternoon that Jason Bay and the New York Mets have agreed to part ways. Bay still had a guaranteed year and $21 million left on the four-year, $66 million contract he signed with New York in 2009, but he will now hit the open market as a free agent.
It’s too early for even the first rumors about where Bay might land in 2013 to have started, but still I’ll throw out the question: Could he be a target for the Indians?
Bay, 34, hit .165 with a .536 OPS in 2012, but his overall résumé is far more impressive than that. He owns a .269/.363/.485 career slashline in 10 MLB seasons even after his mediocre three years with the Mets. He’s OPSed .895 or higher six times in his career, and though he’s had some down years in Queens 2012 was the first time Bay had ever been a significantly below-average hitter.
Perhaps more relevantly to the matter at hand, Bay is a right-handed outfielder with a history of tearing the cover off the ball. He’s far from a sure thing as an everyday player (or even a rosterable player), but he could be a high-upside option in left field and at designated hitter who could help balance the Tribe’s lefty-heavy lineup.
But most importantly, Bay would (presumably) come cheap. It’s hard to predict how the market for him would shape up, but the $1.25 million deal the Indians gave Johnny Damon in April seems like a good reference point for what he could command as a free agent. Even for a small-market team that’s not a huge investment when the player in question fills an area of need, especially since a bounceback year would make him a useful trade chip at the trade deadline.
It still isn’t clear exactly what the front office has in mind for the Tribe’s 2013 season, but for a low-base-salary contract or a minor-league deal (it’s unlikely that he’d settle for that, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility) Bay would almost certainly be worth Cleveland’s while. Don’t be surprised to hear his name connected to the Indians in the weeks to come.