In a post on MLB Trade Rumors on Wednesday, Tim Dierkes speculated on which highly-paid, under-performing players could be released during the season. He mentioned Jason Bay, owed $35 million (including a $3 million buyout in 2014), as a possibility. So could the Mets release Bay if he gets off to another poor start?
On one hand, the Mets have a history of releasing players with big money left on their contract — after all, they dumped Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo with a combined $18 million owed to them. However both of those useless players were despised by fans and were apparent clubhouse cancers. Bay is obviously not a fan favorite, but by all accounts he is a good teammate, and at least he offers solid defense.
On the other hand, the Mets are watching every penny; if they cut Bay they still have to pay him, plus someone to replace him in left field. They may not be willing to do that.
Here is the only reason they would release Bay — it would prevent his $17 million option in 2014 from kicking in. Not much has been written about this, but Omar Minaya left the Mets with another little gift. Bay’s contracts calls for his 2014 salary to be guaranteed if he has at least 600 plate appearances in 2013, or at least 500 in both 2012 and 2013. If Bay remains healthy those are simple goals to achieve. He easily surpassed 600 in all of his healthy seasons, and he even managed 509 last season in which he missed the first month.
Just like K-Rod’s possible 2012 option, this one is a budget buster. If the Mets are going to maintain this $90 million payroll, they can’t afford to pay an underachiever almost a fifth of that payroll.
I don’t think they would release Bay during this season, though. If he has a poor year I can see them doing it next off-season. Unless he returns to his slugging ways (and even if he does), the Mets will do whatever they can to make sure that option does not become guaranteed.