The Red Sox/Jason Bay Rumor

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.

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Jacob Jackson
Guest
Jacob Jackson

We’ve got to stop using UZR as shorthand for “defense”. It reflects a player’s range – how well a guy converts balls in his zone into outs – and it does that reasonably well. But that’s not the whole defensive picture!

UZR is a little bit noisy in left field at Fenway. Any defensive system that puts balls into “buckets” will be that way for the Green Monster, perhaps because there’s less square footage out there. I’m sure MGL would agree to this. So players who play left field full-time in Boston look at little bit worse than they actually are.

Jason Bay recorded 15 assists in 2009. He also made zero errors in 325 chances over 150 games in left field. How many times in the history of the game has an outfielder recorded at least 15 assists and not made an error in the same season?

Sure, his arm isn’t a rocket. But he plays left field in the shallowest left field park in the game, which mitigates that problem. And his arm is obviously strong enough, and accurate enough, that he’s recorded 46 outfield assists in the last four seasons.

There is value in throwing the ball accurately and fielding the ball cleanly. This guy is not Adam Dunn in left field. Not even close.

Frankly, I trust the Red Sox and their front office to evaluate players and their appropriate dollar value. I’m sure they look at a little bit more complete defensive picture than UZR in their defensive valuation.

There are basically only two available, acceptable left field options for the Red Sox this offseason, assuming they want to attempt to start a first-division player at every spot on the diamond. If Bay could be had for 4 years, $60M (he’ll almost certainly be offered a fifth year by someone and top that figure), and Holliday ends up costing 6 years, $120M-plus, it’s easy to see why Bay appeals to them at that price.

Sky Kalkman
Member

UZR includes error runs and arm ratings, too. Not that that addresses all your concerns.

Samuel
Guest
Samuel

The author also noted this issue with UZR and mentioned the fan scouting reports, so he certainly was not “using UZR as shorthand for ‘defense’.”

Dave Cameron
Member
Member

MGL would not agree with you.

wobatus
Guest
wobatus

But Theo Epstein probably does.

Victor
Guest
Victor

UZR and any good defensive metrics use park adjustments. Bay’s defensive numbers would be much uglier without them.

You complain about UZR and then bring up errors to defend Bay? Really?

Steve
Guest
Steve

“UZR is a little bit noisy in left field at Fenway. Any defensive system that puts balls into “buckets” will be that way for the Green Monster, perhaps because there’s less square footage out there. I’m sure MGL would agree to this. So players who play left field full-time in Boston look at little bit worse than they actually are.”

If only Jason Bay had ever played for another team and if only there was a way to check his UZR on that team. And if only this very web-site had those numbers….

Jacob Jackson
Guest
Jacob Jackson

That’s a very, very lazy comment.

Please go look at Jason Bay’s UZR figures prior to playing in Boston. Then, go look at Manny Ramirez UZR figures in Boston, and then look at his 1.5 seasons of data in LA.

UZR makes a full-time left fielder in Fenway look worse than he actually is. Period. Note that I did NOT say that UZR doesn’t adjust for park. I know that it does. That doesn’t mean it adequately adjusts for playing left field in Fenway.

And again, the point of my post, regardless of the three people in defense of R.J. above this, is threefold:

a.) that R.J. is probably overemphasizing Bay’s defensive shortcomings. Bay is a below-average defender in left field. He is not nearly as bad as UZR has made him look the last year and a half.

b.) I trust the Red Sox to make that defensive evaluation, which their reputed offer seems to be doing. I trust that they have a very good handle on the park effect in left field at their home park.

c.) (The issue that no one has addressed yet) They don’t have much of an alternative! They can’t fill left field internally with a first-division player in ’10. That leaves them two external options, excluding trade: Bay and Holliday. If Holliday ends up costing twice as much as Bay, which is conceivable, it isn’t “bewildering” for the Red Sox to sign Bay, to use the author’s word.

Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir

LF UZR/150 for Boston Red Sox 2002 – Present

Year..Player..GS..UZR/150
2002 Manny Ramirez 62 GS -15.6 Rickey Henderson 42 GS 13.5
2003 Manny Ramirez 126 GS 11.0
2004 Manny Ramirez 132 GS -9.3
2005 Manny Ramirez 147 GS -15.7
2006 Manny Ramirez 123 GS -24.2
2007 Manny Ramirez 120 GS -28.3
2008 Manny Ramirez 66GS 4.8 Jason Bay 48 GS -24.0 Jacoby Ellsbury 36 GS 30.3
2009 Jason Bay 150 GS -8.7

So in the time that Bay has been there he has ranged from as bad as Manny to, well, as bad as Manny.

Something tells me that it is not just the field.

Steve
Guest
Steve

you’re right, my comment was a little too cheeky. sorry.

my point was merely that Bay had a history of below average defense in Pittsburgh as well. i don’t disagree that Fenway could make him appear worse than he really is, but he’s likely still below average, and that probably means he’s not worth $60M/4. which was the point of the article.

Dave Cameron
Member
Member

This “trust the Red Sox” thing is the same ridiculous argument that was made when they swapped out John Smoltz for Paul Byrd. Look, we understand that the Red Sox have smart people in their front office, but they still screw up from time to time. Giving them a free pass on everything they do is not analysis.

M
Guest
M

Not real sure what I was supposed to see from looking up UZR numbers for Ramirez and Bay. Bay seems to be challenging for worst UZR along with Ramirez. Bay was avg around -5 UZR from 04 to 06 before dropping off a cliff his last two seasons with the Pirates. Ramirez was a bit worse over that same time (although he had a slightly positive UZR the first half of 08). Fairly sure that Ramirez is infamous for fairly bad defense and he has similar UZR numbers to Bay in Boston. So Jacob, I guess that makes your comments both lazy and wrong.

Jacob Jackson
Guest
Jacob Jackson

M, you really weren’t able to see a difference when you looked at those? Really?

You didn’t notice how Manny was a -28.3 and a -24.2 in his final two full seasons in Boston…and that he was a -3.2 in ’08 and a -14.7 this year? You don’t notice that, despite aging, his defensive numbers look significantly better over his time in Los Angeles?

Dave, I don’t give the Red Sox a free pass on everything thing they do. I’m just disagreeing with you on where they’ve made mistakes.

vivaelpujols
Guest

Jacob, two bits of anecdotal evidence Bay and Manny, are not nearly enough to support your position that UZR hurts LF in Boston. In Manny’s case, the answer is most likely regression. He may or not have actually played like a -25 run defender those two years in Boston, however, it’s impossible for anyone to sustain that. Him moving to LA simply coincided with him regressing to the mean. Also, in 2008, his UZR was slightly positive for 600 innings in Boston before going to LA. It’s not like he suddenly went from horrible to okay when he moved to LA.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Jason Bay this season became only the 5th player in MLB history for all regular outfielders to hit 30+HR have 100+RBI’s and have 0 errors all year. I do believe that in the end teh RedSox will add a 5th year and that Jason will sign with Boston. Unless we get another team who is prepared to break the bank to get Jason Bay. I am quite sure than Holliday will get his huge payday from the Yankees. Did you now that Matt Holliday only has a lifetime .290 batting average away from Coors Field in mile-high Denver?