The Red Sox may employ the smartest front office in baseball, which is why this tweet from Jon Heyman makes little sense. Heyman suggests the Red Sox are willing (and able) to offer Jason Bay a four-year deal worth approximately $15M per season.
Bay turned 31 about three weeks ago and is fresh from his best season in years. Since moving to the American League in July 2008, Bay has seen his strikeout rate leap in upwards to 30%. Bay strikes out, walks, and hits home runs. Two of those qualities are great to have and make the third tolerable. The problem begins with his age. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and while he does play in a notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark, his bat is likely to decline over the next four years instead of remain static or (somehow) improve.
This would be fine if Bay’s value was supplemented by playing a key defensive position or at least playing defense moderately well. Instead, Bay is anything but a black hole in left. Bay has posted negative UZR in each season since 2004 with the exception of 2006. His arm has never been good, and whatever range he has left isn’t enough to make up for it.
Over the last three seasons, Bay has been wroth 3.4, 2.9, and 0.1 WAR. In dollar terms, he’s been worth more than 15 million exactly once. Maybe Boston has a defensive evaluation system that says Bay is better than UZR gives him credit for. Fans of the Red Sox certainly don’t see it that way, as they ranked him near Raul Ibanez and Alfonso Soriano in the Fans Scouting Report.
Boston has the resources to overpay for someone they really want, which is why settling on Bay before making a run at Matt Holliday is a bit bewildering. Yes, Scott Boras is the agent for Holliday and if the Yankees get involved things will get out of hand, but since when has that mattered for the Sox? Maybe Boston just wants to get this out of the way so they can focus their attention on Adrian Gonzalez or Felix Hernandez or whoever, but it still doesn’t make it the right move.