Back in July of 2008, the Rays thought they had Jason Bay. It had been reported that the Rays had acquired Bay in exchange for shortstop prospect Reid Brignac and pitching prospect Jeff Niemann, and Rays fans were excited because Bay would be a big addition to the middle of the Rays lineup. However, the trade somehow fell through and Bay ended up in Boston instead in the blockbuster 3-team trade that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers. The Rays moved without him and beat Bay’s Red Sox in the ALCS despite Bay’s .292 average. Bay then had a nice season in 2009 with the Red Sox, posting a .267/.384/.537 line with 29 doubles, 36 homers, 119 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in 151 games, and Bay parlayed that into a four year contract with the New York Mets. But since coming to New York, Bay has completely collapsed between injuries, including two concussions, and simply poor performance, managing just a .234/.318/.369 line in 288 games and 1125 plate appearances, hitting just 26 home runs, less than he had in 2009 alone. On Wednesday, Bay and the Mets agreed to part ways and now Bay is a free agent hoping to pick of the pieces of his career. Could the Rays be a possible fit on a low-risk deal?
Bay turned 34 in September and is not the same player who posted a .280/.375/.519 line with 181 home runs, 30 per season, from 2004 until 2009. But he is not as bad as he was the past three years with the Mets, where injuries and the pressure to perform caused him to completely implode. Bay is a left fielder and the Rays have at-bats to offer him. He has been injury prone and he’ll have the opportunity to play some designated hitter. And being in Tampa Bay on a minor league deal or a low-value major league contract, the pressure will be completely off of him. The Rays are not asking for much. If Bay hit 15 home runs (the pace he was at per 162 games when healthy from 2010 to 2012), steals double-digit bases (like he did each year from 2008 to 2011), gets on base at a solid clip (Bay had a 10.6% walk rate even with the Mets), and stays healthy while splitting time between left field and DH, the Rays would be thrilled. Jason Bay could finally end up in Tampa Bay, and it could be best for everyone involved.