Bay rejects Sox’ latest offer, willing to ‘move on’

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / December 13, 2009

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The negotiations between the Red Sox and left fielder Jason Bay have hit a roadblock and there may be no going back.

In some surprisingly strong rhetoric for this early in the process, agent Joe Urbon said yesterday that Bay is prepared to “move on’’ after rejecting the Sox’ latest contract proposal.

“It’s pretty simple. We reject the Red Sox’ latest offer for a number of reasons but primarily the valuation of the offer isn’t where we think it should be, nor is it where other clubs have valued Jason in this marketplace,’’ Urbon said. “That’s just led Jason to be more interested in the other opportunities at this point, rather than with the Red Sox.’’ Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said via e-mail that he would have no comment on the situation. “I’ll pass on that,’’ he wrote when asked whether the team was still considering Bay.

Epstein reportedly offered Bay a four-year, $60 million contract. A second offer, Urbon said, was made recently.

Urbon claimed multiple teams have made offers to Bay. The Mets let it be known Thursday that they offered Bay $63 million over four seasons.

The Angels have said Bay is not in their plans, given their other needs. The Mariners are interested and could have an advantage given that Bay lives in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland and is from nearby Vancouver.

The Giants also have interest in Bay and have indicated a willingness to make a five-year commitment.

“I think a deadline will just occur and it will occur based on how aggressive and how interested the clubs that are in play are in Jason,’’ Urbon said. “Jason’s got an idea of what his value is, where he wants to play.’’

Urbon did not close the door on Bay returning to the Red Sox, but the sides have been working on a deal since spring training and have yet to reach a common ground.

“It hasn’t changed much. We’ve been talking with them for 10 months,’’ Urbon said. “We’ve got to a point where, based on the offers we’ve received from other clubs, we needed to make it clear where we stand, and they’ve made it clear where they stand. If they want, they can reengage at some point in this process, but we’re not going to wait. We can’t wait. We have to go at the pace of the other clubs.’’

Epstein has said that retaining Bay was a priority for the club, but only at the right terms. “It has to make sense for us,’’ Epstein said last week.

Bay, 31, hit .267 last season and led the Sox with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs. He was second on the team with 103 runs and made the All-Star team for the third time. He also was fourth in the American League with 162 strikeouts.

The Sox obtained Bay from the Pirates on July 31, 2008, as part of a three-team, six-player deal. Bay has hit .274 with a .380 on-base percentage and 45 home runs over 200 games with Boston.

Bay said several times during and after last season that he wanted to stay with the Red Sox, but also wanted to explore his value on the open market.

“Jason has been true to his comments and true to himself from the day he arrived in Boston last July,’’ Urbon said. “This is a great place to play, a great city to play for, and this is a place that will most likely ensure for him to play for a World Series year in and year out. That has not changed.’’ The news of discord between the Red Sox and Bay is sure to be welcomed by free agent left fielder Matt Holliday, whose only known offer has come from the Cardinals.

With the Yankees not expected to show much interest in his client, agent Scott Boras would be eager to have the Red Sox enter the proceedings.

Epstein and Boras discussed Holliday during baseball’s winter meetings in Indianapolis last week. Boras scoffs at the notion that Bay is comparable to Holliday.

“I think they’re different players for me. Matt is a very athletic player. He’s a complete player. Certainly Jason Bay is a fine hitter, but Matt Holliday is a different type of hitter,’’ Boras said on Wednesday. “He’s more of a line-drive, strength player. He’s really a great base runner. He’s really athletic.’’

Mike Cameron, a center fielder for most of his career, has indicated a willingness to play left field. His presence would be a significant upgrade defensively. Other prominent free agent outfielders include Xavier Nady, Jermaine Dye, Rick Ankiel, and Marlon Byrd. A return engagement for Johnny Damon, who is negotiating with the Yankees, is highly unlikely.

Another possibility would be using Jeremy Hermida, who was obtained from the Marlins Nov. 5, as the lefthanded half of a platoon with a player like Nady. The money saved in left field could then, in theory, be used to bolster another position.

Amalie Benjamin of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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