The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Mets players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 5, left fielder Jason Bay.
At a certain level, the Mets had to sign Jason Bay this off-season. The team was suffering from a legitimate credibility gap, with fans not trusting the front office and a little suspicious that ownership might, you know, not have any money. The Bay signing came right before New Year's, and it was needed. The Mets had to do something.
Now that they've done that something, though, the deal doesn't look quite as appealing as it might have. Bay is a power-hitting and defensively poor left fielder who is now playing in a stadium that punishes power hitters and demands its left fielders be able to play defense. Bay's low batting average isn't that big of a deal considering his fine batting eye, but seriously: No Met hit more than twelve homers last year. Bay will surely hit more than that, but if Citi Field continues to be the homer suck it was last season, Bay will have lost the main tool in his belt. Then he'll just be a below-average left fielder.
We would like to be optimistic for Bay, particularly when Carlos Beltran is back at full power; they're a potentially potent combination. But the Mets are going to be paying Bay $16.5 million a season for the next four years to hit home runs: That's why he's here. If Bay can transfer his power stroke to Citi Field, we'll know more about him and the ballpark. But if he can't, there's not much else he brings, other than the occasional stolen base, a lot of strikeouts, and proof that the Mets were willing at one point to spend money, wisely or otherwise.