A Christmas Gift The Mets Had To Give

Omar Minaya had a list and may have checked it twice, but most of the stores he shopped in didn’t carry what he was looking for. Regardless, he couldn’t let the kids – or in this case, the season ticket holders sitting on renewals and potential new orders – be disappointed during the holiday season. So he did what any concerned parent would do – grab something a little less extravagant at a high price at the last minute.

This semi-hypothetical situation is a mere reflection on the Mets doing their best in a thin free agent and trade market. Minaya did have an offseason checklist that was quite long and scratching a corner outfielder off of it is a positive, but did he get the right player for the team without overpaying?

The general manager brought Jason Bay to Flushing at anything but a discount and although he is a talented player, is he the cleanup-type that they were so desperately looking for? At 31, Bay still has many quality years ahead of him and should be productive for the length of the deal, but he will be making superstar money and has yet to shown that he can carry a team.

The four-year, $66-million contract both sides agreed to (pending a physical) has to make one think why it has taken nearly three weeks to hammer it out when there were clearly no other serious suitors for Bay, another glaring point in itself. The Boston Red Sox wanted to retain him and made a generous offer for the same length but $6 million less. Bay chose to test the waters out there on the open market and did not find as many takers as he may have expected.

Other than the Mets, there were no other teams making more than brief inquiries of Bay. Maybe Minaya did not bid against himself, but he is on the hook for $16.25 million a year for a player who strikes out frequently and will not make folks forget Kevin McReynolds in left field any time soon.

Bay was actually a Met farmhand at one time before being traded to the San Diego Padres in a two-for-one deal, with the main player changing addresses being righthanded reliever Steve Reeves. He then made his way to Pittsburgh and won the 2004 National League Rookie of the Year award. Playing in virtual obscurity for a team spinning its wheels, the Canadian-born outfielder was a steady hitter who played in 162, 159 and 145 games the next three seasons. He also hit 30 home runs and drove in at least 100 base runners in two of those campaigns.

In 2008, Bay was part of the three-way trade that shipped Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and had his highest numbers as far as productivity (36 home runs, 119 RBI) last summer in his walk year. He also had his worst season as far as striking out goes with 162 Ks and his batting average (.267) was the second lowest of his career.

For a team that was lead in home runs by Jeff Francouer with 12, even the mention of someone who can hit 30 long balls is good news. But Bay is probably geared more for what he was in Boston, which was a role player with a lot of talent around him. Maybe he had to carry the load in Pittsburgh, but there was not much pressure there and championships were the furthest expectation at PNC Park. That is not the case at Citi Field.

Minaya is on the hot seat and must have felt that he needed to do something so he can say he filled a need with what was available. You can easily make the argument that the organization would have been better off waiting for a player who filled more holes if they were going to spend a large sum of money.

But that would have been a cold act at this time of year. Bah-humbug.

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