The Jason Bay Lottery is now officially over. Yesterday, the New York Mets signed the free agent All-Star left fielder to a 4-year, $66 million deal, with a 5th year vesting option that could bring the total package to over $80 million.
The Boston Red Sox, Bay’s last team, had offered Bay a 4-year, $60 million deal several months ago that he rejected, but there was hope that since the Hot Stove season was moving forward and he remained unsigned, he would be available for renegotiation. In the meantime, the Red Sox signed outfield veteran free agent Mike Cameron to replace him defensively.
Last season, Bay was an offensive powerhouse for the Red Sox, hitting .36 HR with 119 RBI, both career highs. He is a lifetime .280 hitter who typically averaged 30 HR and 99 RBI over his six seasons in the big leagues.
The Mets, after last season’s injury plagued disastrous season, are making other moves toward improvement as well. They signed free agent catcher Henry Blanco to replace Brian Schneider, a marked improvement both behind the plate and at the plate. They also signed pitcher Kelvim Escobar, last seen with the Angels before missing most of the last two seasons with a torn labrum. Although the Mets will initially use him in a set-up role, he was a very good starter for the Angels. In ’07, his last full season, Escobar went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA and 160 Ks.
The Mets still need another starter and may want to consider moving Escobar into that role once he establishes himself again. Even with these improvements over last season, they will be hard pressed to compete against the Phillies, who should still be the team to beat in the NL East for a long time to come.
Now that Bay is off the market, that leaves Matt Holliday as the single premier free agent still available. The St. Louis Cardinals are still working on negotiations with him, and he has already turned down one very good offer from them (reportedly 5-year, $80 million). At the time, the word was that he was looking for a deal in the 5-year, $100 million range, but times have changed rapidly in the past couple of months.
Holliday, a three-time All-Star, batted .313 with 24 HR and 109 RBI last season with the Cardinals and Oakland. He has averaged .318 over the course of his six season career.
With Bay’s deal yesterday, the market has become clearer for Holliday. According to reports, he’s probably looking at somewhere in the middle of what the Cards offered and what he was looking for. And, the Cards are still the main contenders to pick him back up.
As for the Red Sox, current rumors have them working on a deal with third baseman free agent Adrian Beltre. Beltre, considered to be one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball, played for the Seattle Mariners last season and hit .265 with eight homers and 44 RBI. They are still in desperate need of a major power hitter to replace Bay.