Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Keep Jason Bay?

So I'm a little late to this conversation, but there's been a lot of talk lately about not trading Jason Bay. DK summarizes the points in this article, but to run through them quickly they go something like this: Bay is a good hitter that's not terribly old (29 this year) and will be expensive but affordable for the Pirates after 2009. None of those points are necessarily bad points, but they also don't tell the whole story.

Reason #1 to trade Jason Bay this year? Old player skills. I'm sure some of you are familiar with old player skills, but if you're not here's a good synopsis from USS Mariner (when discussing Richie Sexson):

Old player skills are walks and hitting for power. They stop being able to beat out infield hits as they slow, some of their well-hit doubles turn into long singles, while others go over fences. Think David Ortiz, or to some extent Raul Ibanez. The three true outcomes, where the defense isn’t involved at all: K, BB, or HR.

Now, players can be young and hit for power and walk, and old and hit for a high average and swing at everything. But generally speaking, as they get older, players swing at less and less and hit the balls they do swing at harder.

Now the balance between these two, when a player’s experience combines with ability to produce the greatest production, generally happens at about 27. It can happen a lot earlier, it can happen a lot later (and those spikes are more common than I think is usually recognized) but generally speaking, players get better until about 26-28, then start their decline.

That entire paragraph describes Bay's career to almost to a T. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Jason Bay fan. People that have been readers here for a long time know that I've more than gone out of my way to defend the guy when I felt like he was being unfairly targeted by fans. Still, we're talking about turning the Pirates into a winning franchise here, not who my favorite player on the Pirates is.

Say we sign Jason Bay to a Jason Kendall-like contract after 2009: 6 years/$60 million (Bay will probably make at least $10 million on the open market and he's going to want some long-term security). Bay's been productive this year and he probably will be next year, but signing him to any long-term deal for a significant chunk of cash when he's over the age of 30 is going to be a risk. The Pirates do have money and they can spend it, but they can't afford to throw it at whatever they want like the Yankees do. They just can't afford to lug Jason Bay around for three years at a cost like that.

All of the reasons that make Bay a candidate to stay also make him a great trade candidate this year. Because he's got a year left on his deal, he's not a rent-a-player for whoever gets him. Because he's an affable guy without a super-agent, whoever gets him will have a pretty decent shot at resigning him. Sure, Huntington could wait to the off-season to deal him. At that point, though, his hand is forced for two reasons, 1.) teams will know that he likely doesn't want to go to the deadline with Bay and make a DL-level mistake and 2.) teams like the Dodgers or Mets, who may be desperate for a piece to contend now won't be nearly as desperate.

I'm going to be sad if (when?) the Pirates trade Jason Bay, but it's a move that the team has to make.