After Alfonso Soriano signed his monster of a contract with the Chicago Cubs, giving elite corner outfielders huge money became a trend. Before Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth got paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiid, Jason Bay got huge money from the New York Mets. Bay signed a 4 year, 66 million dollar deal with the Mets. That comes out to 16 million a year, with a vesting option at the end of the contract worth 17 million dollars (this vests if he gets 600 PAs in 2013 or 500 in both 2012 and 2013). For a 4 to 5 WAR player, this should look like a great contract, right? Well....that depends. On what, you ask? A lot.
2010 was not a good showing for Jason Bay. There were indeed concerns among certain people about Bay going from hitters haven Fenway Park to newly constructed hitters wasteland: Citi Field. If you are a Mets fan, the first thing that should concern you is only 95 games played. That's just barely over half a season. Luckily, Bay only got 8.6 million dollars for 2010, so he has the potential to step up and really earn his money as the contract goes on. The biggest issue performance-wise was Bay's power...or lack thereof. Bay hit 6 homers on the year...3 at home and 3 on the road, so Citi Field really isn't to blame. He slugged 105 points better at home compared to on the road, so something is up. He had more doubles, triples, RBI, a better BA, a better OBP, and his strikeout rate was much better at home. So, something is up, here. Citi Field did not cause Bay's problems in 2010, so let's dwell further into this mystery. In 2010, Jason Bay had a higher BABIP and a lower K% than his career norms. His BB% was down 1.4%, but that's not really enough to cause major concern over 400 PA. The biggest change was an 87 point dip in his ISO, suggesting that he just wasn't making any kind of good contact....time to analyze the balls in play. Well...Jason Bay had higher line drive and FB percentages than his career norms in 2010...and a lower GB rate...so WTF? AHA! Bay's HR/FB ratio dropped a full 10.7% from his career norms...and as mentioned before, that wasn't just an issue at Citi Field. It happened everywhere.
So that leads me to suggest that Mets fans should be ecstatic about Jason Bay coming back. He had a good year in 2010, minus the extremely fluky HR/FB ratio. He hit more line drives and fly balls as a power hitter in the middle of the lineup. That normally translates to success for a home run hitter. Give Bay 500 PA this year, and that HR/FB ratio will normalize. When it does, Bay will be back to his .280/.375/.510 career averages (or better, because he is still only 32). So, if someone tells you that Jason Bay's contract was terrible and that Omar screwed the Mets over again...tell them to wait until September. If you're wrong, live with eating crow and being sad. If you're right, the Mets will have found themselves back into the race.