Sorry, Jason, We Don’t Want You
Over the last few years, I’ve done an off-season series called “free agent land mines”, where I laid out players to avoid giving large contracts to who just weren’t going to be worth it. Because it was just that kind of organization, the M’s kept picking guys off the list and targeting them for acquisition, throwing big money at guys like Jarrod Washburn and Carlos Silva. Thank God those days are gone.
With a new regime in place that actually knows how to build a baseball team, I don’t really feel compelled to do a land mine post this year. This front office knows how to evaluate talent, and I have no fear that they’re going to go toss a bunch of money on a long term deal at an overrated aging veteran who has some mythical quality they think they need. A new day, a new way, and all that.
However, I did want to single out one guy whose name keeps popping up for a couple of reasons – the main one being that he’s local and still lives in the area. That he can hit is a nice bonus, since the M’s were last in the league in offense and all that, and for some people, the recipe of good hitter + from Seattle = guy we should be interested in. However, it’s a bad idea in a lot of ways. No matter how many people try to convince you otherwise, just say no to Jason Bay.
He’s 31 years old, right-handed, and not really much an outfielder anymore. He has classic old player skills. In fact, he’s eerily reminiscent to some other free agent the M’s blew a lot of money on.
Bay, 2009: .267/.384/.537, 15% BB%, 30% K%, .269 ISO, -13.9 UZR, +3.4 wins
Sexson, 2003: .272/.379/.548, 14% BB%, 25% K%, .276 ISO, -9.6 UZR, +3.9 wins
The numbers are from Sexson’s last healthy season before the M’s signed him – you’ll recall that he missed most of his contract year with a shoulder problem, but then went right back to being the player he was before the injury. Interestingly, Sexson was actually headed into his age 29 season when the M’s signed him, so Bay’s actually even further into his decline phase than Richie was. Richie made better contact than Bay does, if you can believe that. Their power levels were similar, and they both offset the low batting averages by drawing a bunch of walks.
In terms of skillsets, they’re basically the same player – quality (but aging) power hitters who don’t fit the park and play defense like a DH. These are the types of players that make the worst free agent signings. Power is overvalued in the market, while defense is undervalued, so sluggers almost always get paid more than they’re worth. Toss in the fact that this skillset doesn’t age well, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Even setting aside the presence of players like Michael Saunders (and, to a lesser extent, Dustin Ackley), the Mariners should have absolutely no interest in Jason Bay. He might be interested in playing closer to home, but that’s just too bad – I wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole.
Some team is going to give him a hefty contract this winter. Thankfully, it’s not going to be the Mariners. After making a huge mistake on this player type five years ago, the M’s aren’t going to do that again.