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.
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