Jason Bay has not lived up to his contract so far, one and three-quarters into it. An understatement, I know. Most people here at AA didn't want then-GM Omar Minaya to sign Bay to begin with. Majority of Amazin' Avenue Off-Season Plans had then free agent Matt Holliday- hday7- as their big acquisition of choice. After the Boston Red Sox supposedly decided against re-signing Bay because of injury concerns, Omar signed Jason to a contract that was criticized even at the time, for giving a player on the wrong side of 30 too much money, and keeping him around for too long. The fact that Bay has been chopped liver turned a poor contract into an albatross of a contract. Like it or not, the British Colombian seems destined to play out the rest of his contract with us. That is, there's no possible way Sandy Alderson finds a way to trade that contract. Is there?
A very logical and possible landing point for Bay this off-season could be Chicago's American League team, the White Sox. Howard Megdal brought up the idea in an article he wrote, and I think it does indeed have some merit, as I'll explore. Their general manager, Kenny Williams, has a reputation for not being afraid to wheel-and-deal, and for being very aggressive, when it comes to accepting and proposing trade proposals. On the surface, Williams trading a bag of balls and a deep-dish pizza for the Canadian outfielder sounds somewhat preposterous. When you look at things deeper, however, the stars might just align such that Williams might accept such a trade. But, for who? They certainly aren't going to trade Dayan Viciedo, their third best prospect, like Brian Sabean traded Zack Wheeler, the Giants' third best prospect. Any player who comes back is going to be damaged goods, in some fashion. So, the player? Jake Peavy.
In the mid-2000s, Jake Peavy was one of the best pitchers in the National League. His pair of All-Star Game appearances in 2005 and 2007 and his National League Cy Young Award (and Triple Crown) are a testament to that. Problem is, it's not the mid-2000s anymore. If it was, the Mets would still be the preeminent team in the National League, we wouldn't be wondering if David Wright might regain his MVP form and if Jose Reyes has worn out his welcome. On December 12th, 2007, Peavy signed a four-year extension worth $52 million dollars, plus an option for an additional year, making it the largest in Padres history. Subsequently, the injuries began piling up for Peavy, as did the trade speculation. Eventually, on the 2009 trade deadline, the Padres dealt him to the White Sox, for Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter. His time in Chicago, until July 2010, was very up and down. At times, he would pitch like the ace he was in San Diego. Other times, American League batters had their way with him. On July 6th, however, while pitching against the Angels, Peavy injured his arm and was diagnosed with a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his back. A week later, he had surgery, and was shut down for the season. He made his 2011 debut for the White Sox in mid-May, but was still very up-and-down, and not pitching like an ace: On May 8th, against the Cleveland Indians, he pitched a complete game shut out, and then in his next start, against the Texas Rangers, needed 63 pitches just to get through three innings.
For the year, he is owed $16 million dollars. In 2012, he is owed $17 million dollars. The White Sox, like the Mets, are fielding a highly bloated payroll and aren't seeing impressive returns on those investments- Peavy being their highest paid player. In terms of "baseball card" stats, Peavy looks real bad, with a 5-6 record and 5.06 ERA in 94.1 innings pitched for 2011. Like the Mets, the White Sox already have a lot of money committed to the 2012 season- $89.25 million dollars to be exact, as opposed to the $66.83 million the Mets are already on the hook for. Unlike the Mets, the White Sox also have a few cornerstone players going into free agency or their final arbitration years- Mark Buehrle, John Danks, and Carlos Quentin. As a means to save money, it might be best to trade Jake Peavy in a salary dump. But, how does Jason Bay play into this?
Indeed, his contract is almost as bad as Peavy's. In 2012, where Peavy will be owed $17 million dollars, Bay will be owed $16 million dollars, meaning the total net savings would be only $1 million dollars. His 2013 option calls for Peavy to be paid $22 million dollars, but can be negated with a $4 million dollar buy-out, whereas Bay would only make $16 million dollars again, a net saving of $6 million dollars. Unlike Peavy, Bay's contract extends to 2014 ($17 million) but can be negated with a $3 million dollar buy-out. Wanting to be getting rid of Peavy, makes sense. You might be saying, however, "Why would the White Sox want to take Bay's contract?" The simple answer is, they'll need a left fielder.
Their current left fielder, Juan Pierre, is going to be a free agent this winter. He made $8.5 million dollars in 2011, which was mitigated by the $3.5 million dollars the Dodgers paid for. ZiPS is projecting him to finish the season with a .282/.335/.335 batting line in 668 plate appearances, which is a little lower than, but about in line with his career .297/.346/.364 batting line. The biggest difference in his game is his diminishing speed- not factored into his stealing (he's always been caught stealing a great deal) , but his defense. His UZR in 1059.2 innings (119 games) in left field is -6.8, which comes out to -10.9, when stretched out to UZR/150. His speed in the outfield was his most valuable asset- compare his current 0.1 WAR (with a -6.8 fielding component) to his 2002 2.3 WAR (with a 14.8 fielding component) season, despite having similar batting averages, on-base percentages, and slugging percentages. Defense is still very subjective and difficult to measure, and players with a reputation for being speedy, or good fielders- as Pierre already has- continue to have such reputations, even after they seemingly don't deserve them. As a result, Pierre is likely to receive a contract spanning a few years, at roughly $10 million dollars a year.
Do the White Sox want to commit that kind of money to an "empty .300"- or close enough, anyway- hitter, as Pierre is? With Alex Rios and his .212/.253/.313 in centerfield, or Adam Dunn struggling to hit 40 singles, let alone 40 home runs, odds are, the White Sox are going to pass on Pierre, in favor of a player who can provide them with more power. Outside of Carlos Quentin, and Paul Konerko, the team has very little everyday power. Looking at their top prospects, the closest OF they have to reaching the big leagues is Brandon Short, who is still in AA and looks like he needs more polish. So, an outfielder with a bat to carry the load isn't going to magically appear from the Minor Leagues. Looking at the free agent list, there aren't many decent choices, either. Do the White Sox let Raul Ibanez roam their outfield, because he can give them a slight shot of power? Ryan Ludwick (who seems to have left most of his in St. Louis)? Roll the dice and hope that Jeremy Hermida can regain his 2007 bat, let alone a decent enough bat to stick on an MLB team? If the White Sox are looking for some power in their outfield, a trade is the way to go. This is where Jason Bay comes in.
Jason Bay certainly has had his share of problems, in the power department. For the 2012 season so far, he has 9, and is batting .239/.320/.348. His 2011 season was a little better, with him hitting 6, and batting .259/.347/.402 in half a season. The fact that no real reason can be discovered for his disconcerting and seemingly random lack of power can play into Sandy Alderson's hand, to a degree. The potential to hit 20, 30, almost 40 home runs lies dormant in Jason's bat. With no seeming reason for it's disappearance, perhaps the ol' "change of scenery" would help. The dimensions of U.S. Cellular Field are certainly more conducive to home run hitting than Citi Field. Why would Jason accept a trade to Chicago, with his right full-trade clause? For one, it would let him try to figure out what's wrong with his approach at the plate in an environment that is less acerbic. Chicago is a big-market town, but let's be honest- it doesn't have the New York press, and the White Sox are second to the Cubs as things are. The disgruntled fans also have plenty of underachievers to hurl their angry invectives at, as opposed to here, where Jason is probably the largest target for fan abuse (outside of the collective bullpen), because of his constant failures while at bat.
Even still, this might not be enough for the White Sox, who would be taking on payroll into the future, and would be losing a pitcher. I propose that Chris Schwinden also be included in the deal. The 25-year-old (in a few weeks) is on the cusp of breaking into the MLB, and will likely be promoted in September, to get a cup of coffee. Schwinden posted a 3.60 ERA in 130 innings at AAA-Buffalo this season, and has a total ERA of 3.49 in his 4 years in the Minor Leagues. Chris is a fringe prospect who has seemingly outperformed expectations after being bumped around in AA-Binghamton last season. He doesn't overpower batters, but he utilizes a wide selection of pitches, and locates them. While those numbers aren't guaranteed to translate into MLB success, the inverse of TINSTAPP is also true. Similar pitchers include Mark Cahoon, or Dylan Owen, fringy pitchers who, realistically, I don't envision playing any kind of major role with the Mets, ever.
Now, why might the Mets want Jake Peavy? As was mentioned, Peavy is costly, is sporting a 5.06 ERA in 94.1 innings this season, and has a history of being injury prone. That's the last thing the Mets need- another injury prone starter with a massive contract. For those numbers, Peavy is, surprisingly, worth 2.5 WAR this season, more valuable than almost every starting pitcher on the team currently. The reason for this is his nice peripherals- 7.06 K/9, 1.81 K/9- and the fact that his ERA is so high because his defense allows runs to be scored. There is almost a two-point difference between his ERA (5.06) and his FIP (3.11). Would Jake want to come to New York? In the past, he's made his preference for a National League team known, before ultimately accepting the trade to Chicago. While in San Diego, he green lighted a trade to the Yankees, should the Yankees ever offer the Padres a package (which they did not), so the media, and glitz are things he thinks he can handle. Dare I say, the Mets and the White Sox look as if to be on different sides of rebuilding, with the Mets seemingly ready to be right back in contention in 2013 or so, while the White Sox look as if they'll take longer. Peavy might want to rebuild some of his value before becoming a free agent in the media capital of America, and might even want to get in on the ground floor of good things before they start.
In the end, it's all about getting rid of Jason Bay, and that contract. Jake Peavy provides an intriguing out to that, that the White Sox might find beneficial to their club in the short term, and possibly even the long run (if Schwinden becomes a serviceable Major League starter). I don't know if every "what if" in the scenario might come true, but it sure would be nice to see it all play out like I describe.