Free Agent Market: Jason Bay (No, seriously)

There are a significant number of plate appearances still to be had in the OF and at DH and not many in-house options.  Given their budget constraints though, they may have to look at platoon type players like they did last year with Andruw and Raul. After being cut loose by the Mets, Jason Bay could be an interesting buy-low option as a platoon DH/ 4th outfielder type – basically Andruw Jones’ role last season. There’s no getting around the fact that Jason Bay was historically bad last year. He held a miserable .240 wOBA. For reference, Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright holds a career .240 wOBA. On top of his laughable hitting, Bay’s also a below-average defensive player. So how could Jason Bay possibly be of any use to the Yankees? 

As bad as Bay was last season, there are a number of reasons not to put too much stake in those numbers. For one, his performance took place in a relatively small sample of PA’s (215). There’s a lot of variability in 1/3 of a season’s worth of PA’s. One striking example of this was his .185 BABIP which indicates that he ran into some bad luck. His season was also riddled with injuries as he suffered a broken rib, as well as his second concussion in 2 years. These could also be blamed for his poor performance. Despite all of this, it’s just hard to envision a bounce back season following such a disastrous collapse where he looked so completely lost at the plate. Surprisingly though, Bay’s 2012 debacle was not unprecedented. There have been other players who have completely fallen off the map at a young-ish age after being above-average hitters throughout most of their careers. Here are all of the seasons by established hitters under age 38 who had at least 200 PA’s of sub-.270 wOBA since 2000. By “established hitter” I mean anyone who had at least 3 above-average seasons to his credit before the drop-off and was above average within the last 3 years. Randall Simon made the cut so I was certainly not being picky.

*Knoblauch retired after getting nothing but minor-league offers in 2003 and Simon played in Japan
in 2005, so they aren’t included in the averages.

 

Based on this, it’s not unreasonable to think a healthy Jason Bay could bounce back to something resembling a league-average hitter. Considering he can still fake it in the outfield, he could potentially be a ~1 WAR platoon player this year and serve as a nice compliment to Chris Dickerson. This is just the type of reclamation project the Yankees like to gamble on: a former star player who appears to be just about done. So I would expect Cashman to at least inquire on him. Obviously, the concussions are a concern and the Yankees would have to do their due diligence with his medical records; but, a non-guaranteed, incentive laden contract could pay off if Bay can manage to pull himself back together.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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