Monday, September 28, 2009
The majority of free agent long-term contracts (three plus years) are bad investments since they mostly cover a player's declining years (post-30) and are paid according to his prime (pre-30) production seasons. Of course, we have exceptions and the Red Sox-Jason Bay situation is one of those cases.
Even though Bay is on the wrong side of thirty and can't make contact on breaking balls down-and-away, the weighted average of his top comparables demonstrated a decline in production (OPS+) of only 1-2% in their age 31 and 32 seasons and 9.75% in the following year. (If you want the data and calculation, let me know in the comments section.) The Sox would likely get a top quarter outfielder in 2010-11 and then league average in the third season. Limited data is available for the fourth season and beyond rendering the projection somewhat irrelevant. In the field, as Bay ages his speed and outfield range will probably decline like most. Fortunately, playing 81 games at Fenway and having the DH option minimizes this issue.
Red Sox other options
The organization does not have a near ready power hitting outfielder to take Bay's spot. Without any marketable and movable players, a non-blockbuster trade is unlikely. The Sox will probably need to find a power hitting outfielder on the free agent market.
Other than Matt Holliday, who comes with more questions and a similar if not higher price tag, no outfielder is likely to produce to Bay's level in 2010 and 2011. With 2010 appearing to be the last season of the David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, and maybe Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Victor Martinez era, the Sox should be pushing all their chips into the center of the table.
After 2010, we could be in for a similar winter to 2004-5 when they decided against resigning many free agents (Pedro, Lowe, Orlando Cabrera), which assisted in yielding Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and Clay Buchholz. It also means that the Olde Towne Treasury has plenty of resources after 2010 for Bay.
Bay will sign for four years plus an option worth a guaranteed $75M. The Sox will be rolling the dice in year four but will be confident that the return in earlier years will offset any lost thereafter. Bay will give up an extra year from San Fran or the Mets to stay in Boston...well I hope so.