Since they have not released him, it is apparent that the Mets think Jason Bay has a future. However, it’s impossible for those of us who don’t personally owe him at least $19 million to get that same opinion by watching him in the present. So, the only thing left to do is examine the past and hope that there’s someone in baseball’s rich history that we can point to as an example of bouncing back.
Unfortunately that person doesn’t exist. I searched for corner outfielders with at least 1,000 PA in their age 31-33 seasons with an OPS+ of 95 or worse. This covers Bay’s time with the Mets, in which he has 1,105 PA and an OPS+ of 91. I sorted the list by batting average and Bay’s .231 mark is the worst of 44 players in our sample.
But the list wasn’t designed to center on AVG. Bay’s 91 OPS+ ranked tied for 21st or right in the middle of our sample. He is tied with Jerry Martin and Emil Brown. Martin was primarily a fourth outfielder, and a pretty good one, but he had a few seasons where he was a full-time player. After age 33, Martin had 145 PA in the majors with a 62 OPS+. The majority of those came with the 1984 Mets and he posted a .154//206/.264 line in 97 PA in New York.
Brown was more of a AAAA player who got a shot at consistent playing time in his 30s with the mid 2000 Royals, who were kind of a AAAA team. He did quite well in 2005 and 2006 (age 30 and 31) but was lousy the following two years. After age 33, Brown had 6 PA with the, wait for it, Mets in 2009 when he put up a 48 OPS+.
The 44-player sample is full of guys like Martin and Brown, who really aren’t comps for Bay as they were never really stars in the first place. But there are guys on the list who are closer to Bay in pedigree. Let’s look at those players and what they did from age 34 on in the majors.
Johnny Callison – 3X All-Star, finished second in the MVP voting in 1964. In his age 34 season he posted a 22 OPS+ in 142 PA.
Von Hayes – Finished 8th in the MVP voting in 1986 and made the All-Star team as a 30-year old. Retired after his age 33 season, when he put up a 78 OPS+ in 350 PA.
Joe Rudi – Two-time MVP runner up, he left the A’s to sign a free agent contract with the Angels and was only a shadow of his former self, in part due to injuries. Rudi played two seasons after age 33 and put up a .200/.278/.340 line in 358 PA.
Jeffrey Leonard – Two-time All-Star who was also a down ballot MVP candidate in two other seasons. In his age 34 season he posted a .251/.305/.356 line in 525 PA in his last season in the majors.
Shannon Stewart – Finished fourth in the MVP race in 2003 and placed 25th two years prior. In his age 34 season he put up a .628 OPS in 200 PA in his final season in the majors.
Vince Coleman – A two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year winner, Coleman played parts of two seasons in the majors after age 33 and put up a .143/.222/.204 line in 109 PA.
Mike Devereaux – Finished seventh in the MVP voting in 1992 as a 29 year old. Like Coleman, he played parts of two seasons in the majors after age 33 and put up a .224/.302/.271 line in 96 PA.
It’s pretty sad when Leonard and his .661 OPS is the upside in your group of peers but that’s what the Mets and Bay face if they have a reunion in 2013. Sandy Alderson was able to convince the Wilpons to cut the cord with both Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez when they had a year remaining on their contracts and were owed $18 million. That was the right decision then. There’s little doubt that cutting Bay is the right decision now. Let’s see if Alderson and the Wilpons can use their own history to make the Mets’ future better.