Bay/Mets divorce good for everyone involved

Mark November 7 on your calendar for years to come: it will forever be known as Bay Day (at least in Mets’ circles).

The Mets did the inevitable and finally cut their losses while agreeing to part ways with the much-maligned Jason Bay on Wednesday afternoon. This news comes as great relief for Mets’ fans worldwide, who now have the comfort of knowing the Mets will have no obligation of trotting out an underperforming outfielder- big contract or not-everyday.

This had to happen. The Mets’ front office wanted to get it out of the way, as Sandy Alderson is now in California at the GM meetings working with a new, clean slate.

While the Mets will ultimately have to swallow a lot of money-not to mention pride-this parting of ways was beneficial to all parties involved. The Mets can now move forward in putting together an outfield void of one big albatross. Bay can move on too. Bay is now free to sign with anyone and with a clear conscious and out of the New York spotlight maybe Bay could rebound in some other small market. If there was anyone who needs a change of scenery it is most certainly Bay. Hey it worked for A.J. Burnett.

Bay’s story is an exercise in caution. After signing a four-year deal with the Mets in 2010 for $66 million Bay was supposed to pick up where he left off in his last season in Boston where he  posted a .267/.384/.537 slash line to go with 36 home runs and 119 RBI’s. However, Bay started off on a bad foot, battled concussion and rib injuries, and never endeared himself to the Mets’ faithful en route to a miserable stint with New York.

Bay hit only .234 in his three wretched years with the Mets. Signed here to add some thump to the lineup, Bay only produced 26 home runs and 124 RBI’s in 288 games as a Met. It was an experiment that failed on so many levels.

It was that type of frivolous spending why Alderson was brought to Queens. Alderson was to eventually rid the Mets of bloated contracts and work with a more balanced payroll while working from the farm up. Now Alderson can go about upgrading the outfield while not having to worry about Bay. Sure, the Mets still have to pay Bay his money, but the deal is likely to be deferred over the next few years.

Now there will be no black cloud hanging over the Mets’ clubhouse. No longer will Terry Collins have to pencil in Bay because of his contract. No longer will he or the team have to answer about the maddening unproductivity of Bay.

Look, Bay is a standup guy in a world short on them. Bay always hustled, always gave 110 percent, always was coachable and never made excuses. However, for both sides to move on a split was not only refreshing but necessary.

As Alderson reiterated on Wednesday this is a results-oriented business and despite Bay’s good-guy demeanor and attitude, this was a decision that needed to be made in order for the Mets to move forward.

So, from a personal standpoint I’ll cheer for Bay as he is one of the good guys, but the Mets and  Bay was a marriage that needed to be ended. And thankfully it did on Wednesday.

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Using the past to predict Jason Bay’s future

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.

Forget milk cartons, look for Jason Bay in the dictionary

There is a rumor that if you look up the phrase “sunk cost” in the dictionary, that there is a picture of Jason Bay next to the entry. That rumor may or may not be true but the sad reality is that Bay is that very thing and his continued presence on the roster is a hindrance to the Mets’ efforts to win games.

For those not familiar with the concept, a sunk cost is one that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Furthermore a sunk cost should play no role in future decisions if you are looking to make the best possible choices.

Let’s say you hate the opera. Your wife makes you buy two tickets because *she* likes to go. But on the night of the show, she gets called out of town on business. Now, you could go because you’ve already spent money on the tickets. Or you could go do something that you’d rather do, like go bowling or take a nap. It’s bad enough that you spent the money on the opera tickets. There’s no reason to compound the misery by actually going when there are other options that would make you much happier.

Jason Bay is the opera tickets, while going to see the show is continuing to give him at-bats. While it may seem like going to the show means that the money won’t have been spent in vain, all you are really doing is making a bad situation worse. The odds that this opera is the one that’s going to turn you into a fan are virtually non-existent. The odds that this is the time Bay will be productive might even be worse.

Mike Puma of the New York Post had this quote from Collins on Bay:

“If you sit [Bay] down, it’s the same thing we talked about with not playing Ike Davis [when he was slumping],” Collins said after the game. “He’s just not going to get better [sitting on the bench]. It’s hard to do. He has not been able to get started because of the injuries, so we’ve got to get him started.”

Davis is in his mid-20s and last year put up a .925 OPS. Bay is 33 and has put up the following OPS marks, starting in 2009: .921, .749, .703 and .556 this year. If you get lucky, he might rebound to last year’s mark. But the history books are just not filled with guys in their 30s who have stunk for three years straight magically regaining their past glory.

The Mets had the option of sending Davis to Buffalo to work out his problems and chose not to do it. Chances are they do not have that same option with Bay. The Mets paid a heavy price by playing Davis every day for three months when he was sub-replacement level. They survived because their pitching was outstanding. No one is calling the hurlers that now. Playing the 2012 version of Bay – his .164 AVG and 28.7 K% – when the Mets are struggling this bad is, in a word, insane.

If the Mets want to play a low-average, high-strikeout guy, they should just play Kirk Nieuwenhuis. At least he has a chance to get better. It would be wonderful if Bay could be a .900 OPS+ guy who balanced the lineup with his righty power. But that version of Bay isn’t walking through the door or into the batter’s box.

The latest scuttlebutt is that Bay has one more week to start producing or else he will be replaced by Mike Baxter in the starting lineup. Well, that’s something, I guess.

In the offseason following 2009, the Mets preferred Bay over Matt Holliday because Bay was a pull-hitter that they believed would not be spooked by the outfield dimensions at Citi Field and who would hit home runs. In the nearly three years since, Holliday has 68 HR to 23 for Bay. That’s not really fair to Bay, who has suffered from injuries in the interim. But Holliday has a .925 OPS since 2010, compared to a .703 mark for Bay.

But we cannot go back to December, 2009 and pursue Holliday instead of Bay. What the Mets can do is recognize he’s a sunk cost and stop putting Bay in the lineup to make outs. That was true at least since the middle of last year and it’s true today. Only now it finally seems about to happen. The guy who arrived with such fanfare with an eight-digit contract, is on the verge of being replaced by a guy making minimum wage.

And it’s the right decision.

Ike Davis has been on fire yet Mets still have offensive issues

If at the end of Spring Training, someone had told you that the day before the All-Star break that the Mets were seven games above .500 you probably would not have believed them. And if they told you the Mets would accomplish this with Ike Davis batting .205 with a .669 OPS you would have suggested that they lay off the crack pipe. Yet here we are.

It seems there are two conclusions that we can draw from this information. The first is that in baseball you just never know what is going to happen. Second, Davis is not as integral to the team’s success as we believed back in late March.

Yesterday ESPN’s Mark Simon tweeted that the “Mets are 43-26 when Davis starts and 2-13 when he doesn’t.” That seems to fly in the face of thinking that he is not integral to the team’s success. But here is a case where the numbers are very misleading. Instead, this is more like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

After June 5th’s game, Davis had a .160/.226/.274 mark yet the Mets were 31-25. How important do you really think Davis and his .501 OPS were to the Mets being six games over .500 after 56 games? And to further drive home the point, Davis has been on fire since June 6th – with a .996 OPS – yet the Mets are 15-14 during his hot stretch.

The really important numbers here are the team’s record versus lefty and righty pitchers. The Mets are 34-19 versus RHP and 12-20 versus LHP. The games Davis sat out were versus southpaws. It’s not that the Mets become impotent because Davis is benched, rather they come up short because a lefty is on the mound and the team features at five LHB in its preferred starting lineup.

Last year the Mets were four games under .500 against both LHP (18-22) and RHP (59-63). The difference between last year and this year has nothing to do with Davis. In his brief time last year, Davis had a .493 OPS versus lefties. This year he has a .543 mark versus southpaws.

Instead the difference is that neither Daniel Murphy nor Lucas Duda is approaching their success from a season ago. Murphy had a .755 OPS versus LHP in 2011 and Duda checked in with a .715 mark. This year those numbers are .609 and .594, respectively.

Right now it is a no-brainer to put in Scott Hairston (.952 OPS) when the opposing team starts a southpaw. The problem is that there are no other good bench options who bat righty. Mike Nickeas comes in but his .541 OPS versus lefties is horrible. And when the Mets did sit Davis, they often played Justin Turner, who has a .617 OPS versus LHP and a .610 OPS in games where he played first base and those are numbers to be replaced, not subbed in.

The Mets need Murphy and/or Duda to hit southpaws like they did last year or they need to trade for a RHB – whether he plays C, 1B or OF – to spell Josh Thole, Davis or Duda when a portsider is on the mound.

This is why it was frustrating when the front office overreacted to the bullpen issues and made a move to the 40-man roster to call up LHP Justin Hampson. To do that, they dropped Vinny Rottino from the 40-man roster and lost him to the Indians. Rottino is a career journeyman but in 31 PA versus LHP this season, he had 2 HR and an .835 OPS.

Rottino made nine starts for the Mets this year – all against LHP – and the Mets were 4-5 in those games. No one holds any illusions of Rottino being a star yet his presence in the lineup made the Mets respectable against lefties.

The Mets miss Rottino. They are just 2-4 versus lefty starters since DFAing him and one of those wins was Thursday night when they came-from-behind versus Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning to pull out the victory.

Some will point out that the Mets hope to get Jason Bay back soon and he can be the bat versus LHP that the Mets need. There is some truth to that remark, as Bay has a .776 OPS versus southpaws in 2012. The advantage that Rottino had over Bay is that the Mets felt no need to start Rottino versus RHP. Unfortunately, they do not share that feeling about Bay.

This year Bay has a .558 OPS versus RHP.

Whatever advantage comes to playing Bay versus lefties is more than neutralized by his play against righties. Until the point the Mets use him as a platoon player – like they did with Rottino – he will be a negative for the club overall.

Therefore, a platoon righty bat remains a glaring need for this year’s club.

So, it is great to see Davis finally hitting like we expected him to when the season began. In his last 101 PA, Davis has a .292/.366/.629 mark. Even more encouraging is that he is succeeding with a .302 BABIP, so this is not some unsustainable fluke stretch. The key is that Davis has a 19.8 K% in this stretch. When he was floundering early in the year, he had an ugly 29.5 K%.

Here is hoping that Davis continues to hit like this the rest of the season. But while we can root for this homegrown player to be a factor for the team in the second half, let us not overstate his importance to the team’s success in the first half of the 2012 season.

And while we are at it, let us hope that Sandy Alderson picks up a hitter who thrives versus southpaws.

How to trade Jason Bay

Jason Bay signed a four-year, $66-million contract with the New York Mets on Dec. 29, 2009, and the deal has been a bust since Day 1.

Meet Jason Bay, Then And Now

Through 11 years as a major leaguer, Bay has established himself as an everyday left fielder – and emergency center fielder – who averages 33 doubles and 29 home runs a year while hitting for a solid average. In 4,890 plate appearances, he’s hit 234 doubles and 207 home runs. In 2009, his only full year with the Boston Red Sox expired, he hit .267 with 29 doubles and 36 home runs.

Then he hit .259 with 20 doubles and 6 home runs for the Mets in 2010 after signing the most expensive contract of his career. It hasn’t been pretty since.

His best power numbers as a Met so far occurred in 2011 when he hit 19 doubles and 12 home runs along with a whopping .245 batting average. As of Friday morning, he has 2 doubles and 4 home runs in 83 plate appearances this season.

Clearly not hitting well, Bay is an offensive black hole who sucks up the scrappy attitude of younger and/or overachieving players who don’t know they shouldn’t be winning. Just as bad, he takes playing time away from guys like Scott Hairston, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and – when he recovers – Mike Baxter.

Making Cents Of Dollars

General Manager Sandy Alderson eschewed predecessor Omar Minaya’s big-spending mentality for a low-budget, small-market team mentality. He’s offered not one huge contract – e.g. $36 million over 3 years for Oliver PerezD.J. Carrasco appears to be one of Alderson’s biggest blunders at $2.4 million over 2 years.

With the team payroll down to $91 million in the GM’s second season, Bay’s contract is an albatross – second only to the now-legendary Johan Santana. Bay is owed $16 million for 2012, $16 million for 2013 and a $3 million buyout in 2014 – assuming he doesn’t reach 600 plate appearances next year and automatically vest the option for a $17 million salary in 2014.

Alderson and the Wilpons were willing to eat $12 million of Perez’ salary, $6 million of Luis Castillo’s contract and less than a million on Carrasco in recent years, but Bay is owed at least $19 million for 2013-2014. There’s another $8 million for the second half of 2012 too.

It seems highly unlikely the front office will eat that much contract. But what if absorbing that salary wasn’t a one-way street?

The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31, and there might be a few franchises willing to take an aging left fielder who can still field well and add to team chemistry.
 

Who Would Take Bay?

Throughout his career, the right-hander has almost never hits the ball to the opposite field and does not have much success when he does. In 398 plate appearances, he’s hit 24 doubles, 26 home runs and a .256 batting average. Instead, Bay prefers to hit up the middle, boasting a .347 average with 120 doubles and 96 home runs in 1,698 plate appearances. Left field has also been a frequent target of balls of Bay’s bat. In 1,020 plate appearances, the left fielder has 90 doubles, 85 home runs and a .459 batting average.

Taking everything into account, the ideal trade partner should be a team with a short left field porch and/or closer center field, in need of a left fielder and willing to take on some salary.

In theory, the best trade partner would be the Boston Red Sox for one monster reason. While Bay has struggled to find his way on base or launch bombs in the caverns of Citi Field, he could go to Fenway Park and abuse the doubles-machine that is the Green Monster, which is just over 37-feet tall. The 310 feet down the left field line is the shortest of all current MLB parks and would reward Bay for pulling the ball. Left-center field measures an uninteresting 379 feet, although the apex of center field measures 420 feet.

The other problem with Boston is their lack of need. While supposed-star Carl Crawford and a myriad of other Red Sox have been banged up, the front office has signed and/or called up a number of replacements. Daniel Nava is manning left field these days, and has a .298 average.

Another possible partner would be the Philadelphia Phillies. While many Mets fans would be very happy to sabotage the Phillies, General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. won’t intentionally damage his squad – projected to contend for the World Series. But the dimensions at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark would benefit Bay, especially the 330-foot left and right field line poles. Left-center rests at 370 feet and center field peaks at 408, although balls have a history of flying out of that park.

But like the Red Sox, the problem lies in Philadelphia’s need for a left fielder. John Mayberry Jr. is backing up all three outfield positions with a weak .222 average, but starting left fielder Juan Pierre is hitting over .300, even if most of those hits are singles.
 

Trade Bay,Cash For Lee, Lopez

Perhaps the best trade partner in practice is actually the Mets sister club, the Houston Astros. Minute Maid Park has a reputation of being favorable for home runs, even if the overall offensive numbers are lacking. The left field foul pole is only 315 away from home plate, although it includes a 19-foot-tall wall. Left-center is just 362 feet away, while center is a tremendous 435 feet from home.

The Astros appear to be en route to another disastrous season, although they have uncovered some gems in Jose Altuve. While new General Manager Jeff Luhnow doesn’t have many big names to play with after Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence were traded last year, but they do have an albatross of their own. Carlos Lee signed a six-year, $100 million contract to swat home runs for Houston back in 2006. Now 35-years-old and 264 pounds heavy, the word on the street is that Houston would very much like to be rid of the $18.5 million he’s due in 2012.

If Alderson is not planning on calling up Matt Den Dekker or Fred Lewis before the rosters expand this fall, perhaps it makes sense to add another left fielder for the 2012 campaign. Lee is, theoretically, capable of playing either first base or left field. And while he’ll win a lead glove before a Gold Glove, the right-handed batter was sporting a .297 average with 4 home runs and 8 doubles this year before landing on the DL with a hamstring injury.

Perhaps the Mets front office can hash out a deal with their Houston counterparts that will swap both aging outfielders. Logic dictates that the Astros would only consider the offer if it saved them money; their $60.6 million payroll is the third lowest among all teams. A fair offer might include New York giving Bay and enough money to cover 2012 and half of 2013 while Houston sends Lee and all of his contract to the Mets.

But if the Mets were to eat all that salary and given their current needs, it would only be fair for New York to get something else out of the deal. Perhaps right-handed reliever Wilton Lopez. His 1-year, $515,000 contract is hardly intimidating, and he’s posted a 2.51 ERA and .959 WHIP throwing 32.1 innings in 32 games. Lopez, in his fourth year as a major league pitcher, sports a mid-90s fastball, slider and changeup. Lopez has no saves this year, but he has earned 7 holds so far, suggesting he could replace Jon Rauch or another late-inning reliever.

Recent offensive woes highlight the need to upgrade from Jason Bay

Since moving into a tie for first place on June 3rd, the Mets have dropped five of their last six games. Before you start thinking it is a “June Swoon” recall that they have played the Cardinals, Nationals and Yankees in this stretch, three teams with a combined 98-77 (.560) record. It is disappointing, but not overly surprising, that the Mets have struggled during this stretch.

While recognizing the quality of their opponents, one thing that’s hard to ignore is the team’s .224 AVG so far in the month of June. Here are some of the lowlights:

.192 – Andres Torres
.184 – Daniel Murphy
.115 – Ike Davis
.000 – Jason Bay (0-7 since returning from DL)

At least three of Torres’ five hits have gone for extra bases, so he has not been a complete zero out there. Murphy really needs a day off, Davis needs a bus ticket to Buffalo and Bay needs to be DFAd. In boxing they call it the Great White Hope – the idea that there will be a white heavyweight champion again. In Queens we have the Great Bay Hope – the irrational belief the last two-plus years are meaningless and that Bay will again hit like he did in 2009.

Yes, he goes through two-week stretches where he hits very well. But he follows those up with even longer stints where he’s Davis-esque at the plate. The sad truth is that Scott Hairston gives the Mets a better chance to win and he should be playing over Bay. Some might call for a Torres-Bay platoon but that can’t work in the traditional way, as Torres is even worse against RHP than Bay is.

But if Terry Collins wants to try something unconventional, he could go for a home/road, Torres/Bay platoon. Torres has an OPS 143 points higher at home while Bay’s road mark checks in 52 points higher. And Bay’s road mark comes along with a .167 BABIP, so there’s certainly reason to expect some improvement there.

It’s grasping at straws, and not very likely to work in the long-term. But who among you *really* believes that either Bay or Torres will hit in the long-term? The easiest thing to do is to continue to write Bay’s name in the lineup night after night, hoping some crazy combination of luck, Citi Field’s new dimensions and a return to 2009 form will happen. It wouldn’t be the strangest thing ever to occur but, let’s be honest, odds are against it.

Before the season started, ZiPS saw something of a bounce-back year for Bay, as it projected him to post a .763 OPS, 60 points higher than his mark in 2011. Bay currently sits with a .685 OPS (88 OPS+) and it should now essentially be counted as a win if he rebounds to match last year’s .703 OPS.

Recently, Sandy Alderson has indicated that if the Mets are in contention at the deadline, he expects the club to be able to add salary. Most of the speculation has been on relief pitching but the Mets may get the biggest bang for the buck by adding an outfielder, especially if Lucas Duda moves to first base to take over for Davis.

One potential target might be Torii Hunter from the Angels. A 36 year old in the last year of his contract, Hunter recently returned from the bereavement list and has been swinging a hot bat, with 3 HR in his last nine games. He would be a very pricey acquisition, as the Mets would be on the hook for the remainder of his $18 million deal. But he is also an extremely consistent hitter, with OPS+ scores ranging from 105-128 the last nine years, including a 122 mark in 2012.

A former center fielder, Hunter would upgrade the team defensively, too. Currently he sites with a +3 DRS and a +5.3 UZR. Duda has a (-8) DRS and a (-10.6) UZR in right field for the Mets.

A recent surge has the Angels just three games back in the AL West and it is by no means a given that they would look to move Hunter. But the exact player is less important than the idea that a sound way for the Mets to improve going forward is to add an OF to replace Bay. Perhaps instead of Hunter it’s Jason Kubel or Seth Smith or Josh Willingham.

Regardless of the ultimate solution, let’s hope that Collins doesn’t waste too many ABs looking to catch lightning in a bottle from Bay. And let’s also hope that management not only doesn’t stand in Collins’ way in replacing Bay in the lineup but they actually provide him with an upgrade to use, instead.

Thole, Tejada and Bay can’t come back soon enough

As the Mets sit at 26-21, they are admirably exceeding expectations and staying afloat the standings in the cutthroat NL East.

However, if they want to keep it up, they are going to need to ramp up their offense and the return of Josh Thole (concussion), Ruben Tejada (quad strain) and Jason Bay (fractured ribs) can’t come soon enough.

Did you see the lineup the Mets trotted out for Thursday’s game? When you have to play the likes of Vinny Rottino, Rob Johnson, Ronny Cedeno and Scott Hairston more than you should, eventually it will catch up with you.

Prior to the season, almost everyone and their grandmother said that the Mets would go as far as their pitching could take them as most were confident in the offense. Well, almost two months into the season it has been the pitching that is carrying the Mets, as the Mets work through their offensive struggles.

As of May 25, the Mets were eighth in the NL in runs scored despite being fifth in batting average. Their main problem, however, has been their lack of power, as the Mets sit just second to last in the NL in home runs. Of course this is mainly attributed to the starts that Ike Davis and Lucas Duda (at least from a power perspective) are off to. Saturday’s three home run outing is a step in the right direction.

The return of Thole, Tejada and Bay will lessen the load for guys like David Wright, who is carrying the club right now with his fantastic start. The aforementioned trio are in the early stages of their rehabilitation, and should be back within the next few weeks. Therefore, it is imperative that the Mets capitalize on this 11-game homestand and hold their ground in the standings.

After their homestand is done, the schedule will get mighty difficult with trips to Washington and interleague road games at the Yankees and the Rays on the horizon. It would be good if the Mets could get back any, if not all, of the injured players for that road trip.

While it’s admirable the contributions that guys like Cedeno and Hairston give this club, there is a reason they are bench players.

While Bay can be boom or bust, Thole and Tejada were off to fine starts.

You might have forgotten, but prior to their injuries, Thole had a .284/.356/.370 slash line, whereas Tejada had a .305/.342/.400 slash line. As the Mets have found out, that is hard to replace.

How many more four-hit shutouts can we get from Johan Santana?

The Mets are getting by being competitive in close games, but as everyone has pointed out ad nauseum, they are a dreadful 27th in run differential. Most suggest that discrepancy will catch up with the Mets, thus making the return of Thole, Tejada and Bay crucial to the Mets’ future success.

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What do Mets do when Jason Bay returns?

As Jason Bay works himself back from his rib injury while being cleared for baseball activities this past week, Terry Collins has reaffirmed his position that Bay will reclaim his job in left field as Collins says Bay is no bench player.

Collins does have a point.

Bay is the middle of a four-year $66 million contract (with a $17 million option for 2014) and was a guy who was perennial 30-home run and 100-rbi guy with the Pirates and the Red Sox. You just don’t push those factors aside and let Bay rot on the bench.

With Bay set to go back to left field and Lucas Duda entrenched in right field, that leaves the Mets going with perhaps a platoon in center between Andres Torres and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. This probably won’t please many Mets fans, as they have taken a strong liking to “Captain Kirk”, while also applauding the effort Torres gives the Mets.

However, both Nieuwenhuis and Torres have come back to earth lately and have been pedestrian at the plate. Torres is just two for his last 26. Meanwhile, Nieuwenhuis is six for his last 29. You also have to remember that Bay was starting to warm up before his injury, as he was 9-31 with two home runs and four RBI’s in his last nine games prior to getting hurt.

During the season there is an ebb and a flow; every player prone to streaks. Collins feels he owes Bay the chance to at least show what he can do when he comes off the disabled list. Collins has to see how healthy and productive Bay can be and in order to do that, Collins must get him regular playing time.

This post is not meant to defend Bay, as he has been a colossal bust. But he does deserve a chance to go out there every day and try to redeem himself. If Bay falls back into old habits than a Nieuwenhuis/Bay platoon could become a reality. We all know that Bay can hit lefties and he at least offers a presence in the middle of the lineup.

Bay’s return will not only affect the playing time of Nieuwenhuis and Torres, but those of backups Scott Hairston and Mike Baxter as well.

Do the Mets dare carry six outfielders? If not, they will have to send down one of them.

With Hairston being the grizzled vet who was signed in the offseason to provide pop off the bench, the odd man out could be Baxter. And that would be a shame.

All Baxter has done is produce when called upon. He has come up with countless clutch hits and has been a stellar pinch hitter. For the season, Baxter has a sterling .364/.436/.545 slash line. You would hate to see him go down to Buffalo.

With that said, the simplest but at the same time gut-wrenching move might be to send back down Nieuwenhuis. This would be one of the most unpopular decisions that management would have to deal with in some time.

To play devil’s advocate, though, sending Nieuwenhuis could do some good as he would get regular playing time and not be part of a platoon. Besides, considering the brittle injury history with the Mets’ outfielders, Nieuwenhuis would just be a call away.

Nieuwenhuis is definitely the center fielder of the future and is almost certainly ticketed to play there in 2013 full time. There may be little harm for him to spend the rest of 2012 in Buffalo.

Again this is contingent on how well Bay hits when he returns. Maybe the Mets will have no choice but to keep Nieuwenhuis in Flushing if Bay reverts back to the player we’re accustomed to seeing underachieve.

In any event, once Bay is ready to come back this is going to be one crowded outfield with everyone in the rotation having an argument to stay up here. Another wild theory is that Ike Davis gets demoted with Duda going to first base, but take that with a grain of salt.

It should be interesting to see how Collins juggles this dilemma.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

As Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey hit the DL, Mets fans say so what?

Just as soon as the Mets put Jason Bay (ribs) and Mike Pelfrey (elbow) on the disabled list, the Mets go ahead and win two straight games over the Miami Marlins while also ruining the Jose Reyes homecoming in the process.

Everything is right in the world, correct?

Not so fast.

I’d like to think that the the old saying “You don’t know how much you miss something until it’s gone” may take precedence here.

While, of course, these two players have brutally underachieved and have been whipping boys for several Mets’ fans over the years, they might be missed more than people think.

For the better part of their Met careers, Bay and Pelfrey have been maddeningly inconsistent, while never living up to their full potential or in Bay’s case, more particularly his contract. And that’s what irritates Mets’ fans so much. However, they were off to decent starts this season and you must view things in a vacuum.

Although Pelfrey has not won a game this season, he has kept the team in games and had a 2.29 ERA through 19.2 innings while allowing no home runs and issuing just four walks. As for Bay, yes, he only has a .240 batting average, but his power stroke was coming along –albeit slowly-and he was showing a bit more confidence at the plate before his injury.

Now the Mets will be void of two veteran players who will be replaced by players who don’t offer that much promise.

Scott Hairston, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin will play left field on most occasions and once Andres Torres comes back, Kirk Nieuwenhuis will man left with Torres going back to center. Outside of Nieuwenhuis, are any of these candidates really an improvement over Bay?

Hairston has his usefulness, but is best left as a power bat off the bench. Baxter is nothing more than a role player. Valdespin, who was recently been called up, has some upside, but there will probably be a learning curve when it comes to his game.

With Bay, at least you had a ‘presence’ in the middle of the lineup and he was good for breaking up all the lefties in the middle of the lineup. Also, Bay was vastly underrated for the way he played defense in left. It’s safe to say, that none of his possible replacements can play as good a left as Bay did.

When it comes to Pelfrey, almost of all of us have come to expect what he is: an average pitcher who up until this point has been durable. Pelfrey always ate up a lot of innings and that will be hard to replace.

Pelfrey will now be replaced in the rotation by Chris Schwinden and possibly down the line by Chris Young. Schwinden is a mid-tier prospect with limited promise. In four starts last year, Schwinden went 0-2 with a 4.71 ERA. Schwinden is the “he’ll have to do” choice as neither Matt Harvey nor Jeurys Familia are ready to be called up just yet.

It’s not so much that Bay and Pelfrey will be missed, it’s more about who will be replacing them at this juncture. Fans may soon realize that Bay and Pelfrey at least served a useful purpose for the team.

While the Mets won their first two games without Bay and Pelfrey, we’ll see if they will be missed in the long haul as these next two to three weeks could prove to be a pivotal stretch for the club.

For now, they are not being missed, but if they miss an extended period of time (and Pelfrey visiting Dr. Andrews is never a good thing) Mets’ fans may be singing a different tune come the end of the season.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

How long until Jason Bay gets benched?

Well the first game of the season is tomorrow and the Mets have their Opening Day roster set. Mike Baxter and Miguel Batista have made the team and Andres Torres, Tim Byrdak, and Frank Francisco will be ready to go as well. All-in-all you look at this Spring as a Mets fan and things went pretty well. They didn’t win many games, but players coming off injuries in the previous year perform well and no one suffered any major injuries. However, there is one last Spring Training game today. I’m not sure why they are playing or more importantly why are the starters are in there. I feel like everyone should have been at Citi Field today to work out and check the ballparks new dimensions. Especially when they are playing a day game tomorrow.

One thing that did concern me this Spring the was production of Jason Bay. He’s hitting .200 with no home runs, two doubles, and 15 strike outs. The good news is that he has ten walks and four stolen bases. So when he gets on base he is making aggressive moves and he’s been patient at the plate. Now the question is how long the Mets will be patient and keep him in the starting line-up.

Terry Collins has already decided that Bay will be the teams number five hitter in the line-up. He’s filling the gap between two powerful left-handed bats; Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. These are two players with 30 home run potential that Bay has been put in-between mainly because he’s not a lefty.

When you look at the starting Mets line-up and think, “who is the most important player for this offense?” You wouldn’t say Ike Davis or David Wright, but rather Jason Bay. He not expected put up All-Star caliber numbers, just don’t-suck… caliber numbers. He plays a very important role and could even be the linchpin to the offense. A poor production year out of him would affect the  number of good pitches Davis sees and could send Duda up to the plate to start innings, rather than being a rally finisher.

If Bay has another year were he hits ten home runs and hits .250, there’s going to be a problem. There have already been talks that if he continues to struggle they will look into other options, including a platoon. The only person on the team right now that would fit into that platoon is Mike Baxter, and I don’t think he is the answer to the Mets offense. Kirk Nieuwenhuis would be the most likely to replace Bay once he gets healthy, but again he is left-handed. So he’d give the Mets a very left-handed heavy line-up.

There may not be a way for Bay to avoid an exit from Queens. If he doesn’t perform well he’ll be bench or even released. If he somehow returns to his All-Star form the Mets will most likely look to trade him. It really just feels like Bay is out of place on this young, home-grown team. You look at Murphy, Davis, Duda, and then the big name, big contract Bay. It just doesn’t fit with what the Mets are doing and what direction their organization is moving in. If given a chance to trade Bay for some prospects, it would be tough for Sandy Alderson to turn down.

When someone is getting paid that much there is a certain expectation for them to produce. Bay came over from having a monster year for the Red Sox to the spacious Citi Field. Whether he was trying to hit for more power to get the ball out of the park or just taking too much advice from people on how to fix his swing, Bay is not the same player he was.

Will new fences make a new hitter out of Jason Bay?

Last year on July 25th, I wrote an article saying that Jason Bay was toast and it was time for the Mets to move on. Three days later he started a hot streak that lasted until the end of the season. The streak lasted for 188 PA and led to this line:

.283/.362/.476

That performance would be a fantastic thing for the 2012 Mets to have. The question is: How likely is Bay to provide that kind of value over a full season? The six forecasts available over at FanGraphs give him an OPS ranging from .744 (Marcel) to .791 (Bill James). Last year he had a .703 OPS over the entire season, so every system sees him improving this year, even though at least some of these projections were made without benefit of knowing the new park dimensions.

The unknown of how Citi Field’s new dimensions will play out hovers over everything.

How likely is Bay, on the wrong side of 30, to match those numbers in a full season? In MLB history, there have been 165 people who at age 32 put up an OPS between .675 and .730 in a season in which they had at least 400 PA. Bay ranks 79th on this list with his .703 OPS last year. How many do you think were able to significantly increase their OPS in their age 33 season?

Actually, it’s more than I would have guessed. There were 22 players from this group who saw their OPS go up between 50 and 99 points. And there were 10 more that saw their OPS go up by at least 100 points. A pair of San Francisco Giants from their 2010 World Series team – Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff – are on the list. Other notables include Al Bumbry, Ron Gant, Dick McAuliffe and Jim Northrup. Perhaps the most well-known player is Hall of Famer Roy Campanella, who after posting a .686 OPS in an injury-shortened 1954, rebounded to record a .978 OPS en route to winning the MVP in the magical 1955 season.

There was no common theme among the players who did have a strong year in their age 33 season. Some came back from injuries, some had an off-year at age 32 and bounced back, some had a career year at age 33 and some benefited from a move to a new park.

My takeaway from this is the Mets need to give Bay a shot in 2012. If he can come close to duplicating his numbers over the final 188 PA from last year, that would be a big boost to the lineup. It still seems like odds are against it actually happening, even with the fences coming in. But at this point in time, the Mets don’t have an obvious replacement.

I would give him until the All-Star break. If Bay is near an .800 OPS at that point, then the decision is easy and the Mets just keep playing him. However, if his numbers are hovering around the .656 OPS that he had last year at the break, then it’s clear that it’s time to get him out of the lineup. Everyone wants to see Kirk Nieuwenhuis have a couple of months at Triple-A. Here he gets that time and hopefully is ready to step in if Bay is struggling again.

When Bay signed with the Mets prior to the 2010 season, he inked a four-year deal with a $17 million option ($3M buyout) that becomes vested if he gets 600 PA in 2013 or 500 in both 2012 and 2013. Much like with Francisco Rodriguez last year, one of the goals of the organization should be to make sure that they do not have to pick up that option.

FanGraphs shows Bay being worth $6 million in 2010 and $3.3 million last year. It is extremely unlikely that he will be worth $17 million in 2014.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that even while Bay has performed miserably in his tenure with the Mets, he is still a productive player against LHP. Last year he had a .300/.418/.500 line against lefties. Perhaps the best way to utilize Bay going forward is to use him in a platoon role, especially if he is struggling at the All-Star break.

A platoon ensures that Bay does not reach his vesting option. It allows the Mets to get at least some value from their multi-million dollar investment. And it eases the transition for Nieuwenhuis into the majors. The rookie would get the bulk of the playing time, as the lefty-swinging Nieuwenhuis would start against the righties. But with guys like Buehrle, Gonzalez, Hamels, Lee and Minor in the division, Bay should still see some action.

It’s really a shame how things have worked out for Bay in New York. By all accounts he is a good guy, his defense has been much better than advertised and he hustles all of the time. He’s a guy that fans normally would love to have on their team. But it’s tough to love a guy with a big contract who isn’t hitting. Hopefully the new dimensions help reinvigorate his career. But if they don’t – hopefully the Mets are ready to do what’s necessary to avoid having to pay him $17 million in 2014.

Just what if David Wright and Jason Bay rebound in 2012?

With alterations already under way to reconfigure the fences at Citi Field, the Mets are undergoing a facelift with the hopes that it could jump-start a flailing offense.

At the crux of the fence alterations is what it could mean to both David Wright and Jason Bay. Wright and Bay have seen their home run production arguably corrupted by the intimidating confines of Citi Field. That is one major reason management gave the O.K. to alter the fences for the 2012 season.

Some would argue that if Bay and Wright get back to what they did prior to having to hit at Citi Field than the Mets might just have a decent squad. Maybe those people have a point.

Prior to playing the majority of their games at Citi Field, Wright’s three-year average home run rate was 29.6 home runs a year, whereas Bay’s was 29.3 home runs a year. While both have battled injuries in the last two years, which of course plays a major factor, the two have combined to hit 61 home runs while playing together at Citi Field.

Now, the field dimensions aren’t exclusively to blame for Bay and Wright’s troubles. That would be a naive approach to look at things. A lot of other factors have gone into their respective swoons.

For Wright, it could be the beaning he took to the head from Matt Cain as the reason for his slide. For Bay, a concussion in 2010 and the high demands of playing in the New York market could explain some of his difficulties.

Nevertheless, with the fences under renovation, so might the careers of Bay and Wright.

If they can provide close to 30-home-run power than the Mets may just have enough offense to be taken seriously next year. Next year they’ll likely have Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis back and perhaps a return to form for Angel Pagan makes this team formidable. It could be wishful thinking. Mets’ fans have been burned before on waiting for stars to come back healthy and rejuvenated.

It’s a lot to hope for, but clearly the effect of hitting in Citi Field has been emotionally draining on Bay and Wright. The dimensions had to psychologically impact both. Why else take such drastic measures that are now being implemented? You could see the frustration on their face when they would wallop the ball only for it to be caught deep or hit high of the walls.

This could be a band aid approach to a much bigger problem, but if the new alterations can resuscitate the careers of Bay and Wright then this could lead to the team being more competitive. In turn, if the team could produce more offense as a result it could lead to more wins and that could mean more tickets sold etc. In this scenario everybody wins.

Sure, that’s an oversimplification of things. But for a team in need of a much needed injection of buzz and enthusiasm, the Mets shouldn’t rule anything out that could help the team in the long run.

If the Mets could also somehow get Jose Reyes to come back on board while getting Bay and Wright going, then suddenly the outlook for the Mets is not so bleak.

It’s a lot to hope for, but at this point the risk is worth the reward here