Dec 3, 2009, 6:28 PM EDT
Jack Zduriencik has emphasized defense time and time again since taking the helm in Seattle. He acquired Franklin Gutierrez to play center, picked up and then re-signed Jack Wilson for shortstop and he traded for Endy Chavez, Jack Hannahan and Ryan Langerhans to occupy lesser roles. All are players who have been rated very favorably by defensive statistics over the last year. He’s also exiled Yuniesky Betancourt and shopped Jose Lopez, two players not treated so kindly by the numbers.
That’s why the news that the Mariners are in hot pursuit of free agent Jason Bay came as something of a shock. Bay is one of the game’s worst defensive outfielders, according to UZR. He’s finished 10 runs below average each of the last three years, coming in at -40.8 runs in all.
Now, left field in Fenway Park is definitely a touchy area for defensive systems, given the presence of the Green Monster and the lack of ground that needs to be covered. But Bay was rated as being -25.8 runs below average during his final 1 2/3 seasons in Pittsburgh. He was average before that, but knee problems have taken a toll on his speed, and there’s considerably more ground to cover in Safeco, even accounting for the fact that Gutierrez will be of a lot of help getting to balls in left-center.
It’s not to say Bay wouldn’t be an asset. His 900 OPS has far more than made up for his defensive shortcomings these last couple of years. But he probably wouldn’t to post the same kind of line while playing half of his games in Safeco, a very difficult ballpark for right-handed power hitters, and by the time he’s in the second half of his likely four- or five-year deal, he may well be nothing more than an average regular.
In truth, he’s probably worth more to the Red Sox, given the small left field, than he would be to any other team. The Mariners could sign him with the idea of making him a first baseman or DH in a year or two. They’ll get the middle-of-the-order bat they need and become more of an immediate threat to the Angels. It’s just not worth the $70 million-$80 million it figures to cost.
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