NASHVILLE, Tenn. – General manager Jack Zduriencik wouldn’t comment on it. Manager Eric Wedge at least acknowledged it. And sources within the Seattle Mariners organization did confirm it.
The Mariners agreed in principle to a one-year contract with free agent outfielder Jason Bay on Wednesday afternoon.
“I can’t comment on that right now,” Zduriencik said early Wednesday evening.
By then it was commonly understood that the one-time All-Star outfielder for the Pirates and Red Sox would be signing with the Mariners.
Bay will have to undergo a physical before officially signing the contract. And because it will be a major league contract, the Mariners must place Bay on their 40-man roster. As of Wednesday, that roster was full, meaning a player would have to be designated for assignment to make room.
Since Bay, who was born in British Columbia and played at North Idaho and Gonzaga, resides in Kirkland, there’s a chance that the deal could be announced as early as Friday.
Rumors of how much the Mariners are going to pay Bay have varied. A report from CBS Sports said that Bay was going to get “seven figures” – implying that it would be in the millions.
Other sources expect the deal to be around $700,000 for a one-year contract with incentives.
While some fans’ reaction ranged from disinterest to anger, this move in no way stops Zduriencik’s pursuit of hitting.
“We’ve had several meetings today with clubs and player representatives,” Zduriencik said. “We are still going to push forward and explore every option. You just keep doing your work and hope something clicks.”
While Zduriencik wouldn’t comment specifically on Bay, Wedge did talk a little about Bay and the possibility of success.
“He’s a guy that we’ve been talking to, but nothing’s done yet,” Wedge said. “It’s an interesting story, it’s an interesting situation. If you are able to make it happen, you’ve got to feel good about taking a chance on a guy that’s been a great performer at times at the big league level.
“He’s had a tough couple of years.”
Tough might be an understatement.
Bay had a solid 2009 season for Boston, hitting .267 with 36 homers and 119 RBI and a .921 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).
On the heels of that season, he signed a 4-year, $66 million deal with the New York Mets. But Bay never lived up to expectations. He started off slowly and was hampered by an assortment of injuries. He missed games, and when he did play, he didn’t produce. He became the face of the Mets’ many struggles.
During his three seasons with New York, Bay played 288 games with 1,125 at-bats, hit .234 and had averages of .318 on-base and .369 slugging. He struck out 285 times.
During the 2012 season he was plagued by concussion effects and then saw his playing time dwindle. It was to the point that the Mets decided to buy him out of the remainder of his contract and let him become a free agent.
Bay was owed $16 million in salary, a $3 million buyout and $2 million from his signing bonus.
Could Bay return to his 2009 form? Unlikely, but he could be able to contribute to a team in dire need of just about any sort of offense.
It’s a low-risk, perhaps medium-reward move.
Bay is a low-maintenance player in the clubhouse, and the type of presence that Wedge would like to have around his young team.
The Mariners have a glut of outfielders, but there are questions surrounding all of them. Michael Saunders is coming off a semi-breakout year, but still needs to improve. Franklin Gutierrez has been limited to 132 games combined the past two seasons, and has not been able to stay healthy. Eric Thames and Casper Wells have yet to show any sustained consistency at the big-league level.
“I think they all need to take the next step,” Zduriencik said. “You have to leave your doors wide open.”
There is no guarantee of a roster spot, let alone a starting spot, for Bay.
With such a low contract, the Mariners could easily part ways with Bay if he simply can’t contribute.
“We have to see how it all plays out,” Wedge said. “Nothing’s done yet. If it does play out, I think we’re going to have a few situations like that.”
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 email@example.com