According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, the Mets have already made a decision to keep Jason Bay through the 2013 season. If that is actually the case, it's a bad idea.
Bay was, of course, signed to a four-year, $66 million deal with a vesting option for a fifth year after the Mets' dreadful 2009 season. Since then, he's been nothing like his former self. In just 285 games over nearly three full seasons, Bay has hit .233/.317/.369 with a paltry .308 wOBA. He's hit just 26 home runs in 1,118 plate appearances.
Next year, the Mets will pay Bay $16 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract, but the good news is that it looks virtually impossible for Bay to qualify for his $17 million vesting option for 2014. In order to guarantee the fifth year of the deal, Bay would have to make 600 plate appearances next year, which seems impossible given his greatly diminished role. He could have guaranteed the option with 500 plate appearances next year if he also had 500 this year, but he will fall very short of that total when the 2012 season ends next Wednesday. The Mets will be on the hook, however, for the $3 million buyout of the option.
But the Mets are apparently not planning to give Bay the same treatment they gave up Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. This line from Puma's article is particularly concerning:
The front office is opposed to paying Bay $19 million (including a $3 million buyout) to just disappear and perhaps resurrect his career elsewhere on the Mets’ dime.
Sure, it's possible that Bay could somehow find a way to be a productive hitter in 2013, either with the Mets or with another team, but the odds are very slim. Like Castillo and Perez were heading into 2011, Bay is a sunk cost. If the Mets keep him through the entire season, they will be a worse team as a result.
Bay's always been an easy player to root for. He's sacrificed his body and health on multiple occasions in order to track down fly balls in left field, and he's been pretty honest about his struggles in public. There's no real reason to boo the guy at Citi Field.
If the Mets are more worried about what Bay might do with another team next year than what he might do with the Mets, though, they're doing it wrong.