The Bay watch is set to begin at Citi Field.
Free-agent slugger Jason Bay and the New York Mets have reached a preliminary agreement, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Bay, a former star at Gonzaga, must pass a physical for the deal to be completed. The three-time All-Star is expected to sign a four-year contract for about $65 million.
Bay set career highs with 36 home runs and 119 RBI last season for Boston. The 31-year-old outfielder is a lifetime .280 hitter and has averaged 30 homers and 99 RBI in his six full seasons in the majors.
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Bay fills a huge hole in left field for the Mets, who skidded to a 70-92 mark during an injury-plagued year. They especially needed a bopper after hitting a major league-low 95 homers in the first season at their spacious, new ballpark.
Bay produced in his 11/2 seasons with the Red Sox, but the sides couldn’t agree on a new deal. The Mets wound up landing a top free agent – a bat they needed for their decimated lineup, and the kind of splashy move their fans demanded general manager Omar Minaya make.
Bay and left fielder Matt Holliday were the biggest hitters on the market. Holliday, who split last season in Oakland and St. Louis, is seeking an even richer deal than Bay’s.
The deal returns Bay to an organization that once had him. A month after Minaya left the Mets’ front office in 2002 to become Montreal’s general manager, he traded Bay and another minor leaguer to New York for infielder Lou Collier.
Bay spent two months in the Mets’ system, playing alongside Jose Reyes, before getting traded to San Diego. The Padres dealt Bay to Pittsburgh in 2003, and the Pirates sent him to Boston in July 2008 in a three-team deal that moved Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.
Pressure on the Mets to boost their roster heightened even more this winter when their city rivals, the World Series champion Yankees, traded for All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Javier Vazquez and signed free agent Nick Johnson.
The Mets recently signed free-agent pitcher Kelvim Escobar, who has been beset by injuries, and Japanese reliever Ryota Igarashi and backup catcher Henry Blanco.
DeRosa signs with Giants
Mark DeRosa signed a $12 million, two-year contract with the San Francisco Giants after passing a physical. One of general manager Brian Sabean’s top priorities this winter was to add a big bat to drive in runs in the middle of the lineup, and DeRosa brings that ability. He can play several infield spots and the outfield, but is expected to work primarily at third base.