Bay comes to terms with the Mets

Four-year agreement is pending a physical

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / December 30, 2009

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The relationship between Jason Bay and the Red Sox, one that began with seconds to go until the trade deadline in 2008, apparently has come to an end. News broke yesterday that Bay has agreed to a four-year deal with the Mets, with multiple reports pegging the contract at $66 million with a vesting option for a fifth year. The deal is pending a physical.

While the Sox pursued Bay to a point, the fifth-year vesting option appeared to be the difference between the left fielder returning to Fenway Park and heading off to Citi Field. WFAN first reported that the sides had agreed to the deal.

“It’s definitely going to be tough for all of us,’’ Kevin Youkilis said. “Jason was a close friend. A joy to play with him. Great ballplayer.

“But it’s a business, things happen. It’s one of those business moves on each side. It just didn’t work out right. I wish him the best in New York. Hopefully we get to see him in the World Series.’’

The Sox and Bay’s camp had been talking since spring training but Joe Urbon, Bay’s agent, told media outlets Dec. 12 that Bay was ready to move on. It appeared there was no agreement on Bay’s value, and that he was going to go with the highest bidder. Messages left for Bay and Urbon yesterday went unreturned.

“We’ve been talking with them for 10 months,’’ Urbon said two weeks ago. “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 re-engage 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.’’

Within two days of those statements by Urbon, the Sox had signed John Lackey and Mike Cameron, filling an open outfield spot and putting a dent in the pot of money they had available for their 2010 team and beyond.

Other teams reportedly in on the bidding for Bay were the Angels, Giants, and Mariners, though it appears the market never exploded the way Bay’s camp would have wished.

Because the Mets have a protected first-round pick in 2010 (No. 7), the Sox will receive the Mets’ second-round pick as well as a supplemental pick as compensation. The Sox lost their own first-round pick by signing Marco Scutaro and lost their second-round pick when they signed Lackey, but they gained a likely first-round pick when the Braves signed Billy Wagner.

The physical Bay has to take with the Mets might be more than mere formality. As the Globe’s Tony Massarotti reported two weeks ago, talks between the Sox and Bay truly broke down at the All-Star break, when Bay’s health became a focal point. According to a source, the sided were close to a deal, but then concerns about Bay’s health brought negotiations to a halt. They appeared to never get back on track after that point. Now, Bay is gone.

In his year and a half in Boston, Bay hit .274 with 45 home runs and 156 RBIs, including a .267 average with 36 homers and 119 RBIs in 2009.

Bay also struck out 213 times in 715 at-bats and was extremely streaky last season at the plate. One part of Bay’s game that has come under fire of late is his defense, with giving him a -13.0 ultimate zone rating for 2009 in left field.

That offense will be missing, replaced by the lesser numbers (though better defense) of Cameron.

“If you put it all in numbers, Bill James and all his stuff, the season’s already figured out,’’ Youkilis said. “We always joke about that with him. But you never know what’s going to happen. A guy might hit 15 home runs, the next year he might hit 25, have a great year. That’s what you hope for.

“This team has some guys that can improve on their numbers from last year. There’s a few guys that are added onto the team that hopefully will improve on their numbers, too. You just hope for the best and hope guys can, in the end, just have good years and put us in the playoffs to try to win a World Series.’’

Then again, there are no assurances that the team as it is constituted right now will be the same team that reports to spring training, or the same team that finishes the season. Youkilis, for one, seems confident at the moment.

“I think we’ve got a great team,’’ Youkilis said. “I think we have a good offense, but picking up John Lackey was huge, where you don’t allow as many runs so the offense doesn’t have to be as great when you have great pitching. Great pitching always wins championships. For us, hopefully we’ve got six starting pitchers again, so if all can stay healthy, who knows what’s going to happen?

“It just depends on how all the [offensive] guys adapt to it, but I think there’s still a lot of thunder there.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at

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