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.

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9 comments on “What do Mets do when Jason Bay returns?

  • Brian Joura

    I’m not sure that Davis to Buffalo is a wild theory – I think that’s really in play if Ike doesn’t start producing ASAP.

    I’ll give you a really wild one. How about sending down Valdespin and having Hairston as a backup 2nd baseman until Tejada comes back? I think Valdespin needs the ABs more than Nieuwenhuis. And Baxter really shouldn’t be demoted.

    • Dan Stack

      I’m starting to agree with that thinking. If Davis can’t getting it going against the matchups he has this week, than this may be his last week here.

  • Mack Ade

    from everything I hear, the Mets are going to make a run this year for a playoff slot

    this will take more pitching (Young, Mejia) and better bats

    I look for:

    LF – Bay or die
    CF – Torres
    RF – Nieuwenhis full time – he’s 2nd in THE LEAGUE in BABIP, but he only hits righties.He has to be allowed to bat lefties even though it will increase his team leading strikeouts

    1B -Duda

    Buffalo – Davis – also sends a sign to the rest of the organization… you hit, you play… you don’t you wake up cold

  • Joe Gomez

    The obvious was Valdespin going down but since he went down for Hefner, Acosta will be DFA when Bay comes back. Another possibility is Ike Davis going down to AAA for 2 weeks while they sort things out.

  • Paul

    If the Mets are still hoping to contend in 2012:

    Ike Davis and Kirk Nieuwenhuis both go to Buffalo until they show us that they should be brought back to the major leagues. (Nieuwenhuis had a good April, but he’s struggled this month)

    Lucas Duda moves to first base and Jason Bay, Andres Torres and Mike Baxter/Scott Hairston play the outfield, while Sandy Alderson sees if he can find another bat for the lineup.

    If the Mets are primarily developing players for 2013:

    Kirk Niewenhuis plays right field every day, Lucas Duda moves to first base and Ike Davis still goes to Buffalo. He’s had two months to work his way out of this slump, and it hasn’t happened. He may need the wake-up call of a demotion and/or a fresh perspective from a different hitting coach to break out of it.

    We may also have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that Davis is a one-year wonder.

  • Metsense

    I have been saying that Bay is a platoon player and I still believe so but he has a better OPS than Duda, Torres and Kirk. I want to win, so I’d give him another chance full time (but that 2014 option really scares me). Torres/Kirk in CF and Hairston/Baxter in RF should also be tried as none of the four seem to be full timers.Finally Duda at 1B with Davis being demoted just makes too much sense. It improves the offense and may improve the overall team defense. If by the time Bay gets back and Davis is hitting then reevaluate. A lot can happen before Bay gets back.

  • rob sahm

    remember alderson said nobody is untouchable on this team i love ike and i think he will be a very good major league player. but if we can get a pwer hitting outfielder or a good defensive 2nd baseman maybe ike is trade bait have murph play 1st or valedespin at 2nd and moving duda to first if sandy really thinks this team has a shot at a wild card this year he will do something with the bullpen and starting pitching first

  • Art

    There is actually another option which most people aren’t considering and they should. There is one player on the Mets right now who has been struggling even worse than Bay has been since the beginning of the year, and that’s Ike Davis. Of all players who could use a rehab assignment down in triple-A to work out his problems, it’s Ike Davis, and PLEASE don’t get me wrong–I LOVE Ike Davis as a player, and I want to see him as a Met for a very very long time.

    Thus, here’s what I would propose. Lucas Duda is a natural 1st basemen who still struggles in RF. So, you move Duda to 1b, put K-New in RF, Bay in LF, and Torres in CF. I’m not sure the management would be willing to make such a bold move, or if they even have the option to send Davis down, but if they do, that’s the way to go, at least until Davis regains his stroke, which I’m confident he’ll do down in AAA.

    Once Davis regains his stroke, you bring him back up, and by that time it should be pretty clear who rightfully deserves to be the starting outfielders.

    If that DOESN’T happen, it’s only fair to platoon K-New and Torres in CF, let Bay get his shot back in LF, and keep Duda in left. If ANY OFer is to be sent down, it HAS to be Scott Hairston. Baxter has proven, to me at least, to be a FAR, FAR better option than Hairston. After all, who is it the Mets are DHing in interleague games? Hint: Not Hairston.

    When I was younger and played strat-o-matic baseball regularly, Scott Hairston fits the mold of someone we used to call “a scrub.” I don’t know where we got the word, but it fits. Hairston’s a scrub who would clear waivers. Why the Mets are so in love with the guy is beyond me. Baxter can do AT LEAST as good a job as Hairston, so you cut Hairston loose. It’s just that simple.

  • jerseymet

    Just a thought: Boston has six outfielders on the DL maybe the might take Bay and some of his contract.

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