The Pirates have a barren minor league system, mostly devoid of impact talent. The Major League team has won less than 70 games in three consecutive seasons. The majority of the team’s offense is made up of average players in their prime who will be eligible for free agency in two or three years. General Manager Neal Huntington is new to the organization, with fresh plans to rebuild the farm system. It is obvious that several starters could be on their way out in the next year or so. I would like to examine the pros and cons of dealing each of these players. Check here for my thoughts on trading Xavier Nady. Today we will look at Jason Bay.
Jason Bay trade rumors have been flying all over the place since the beginning of the Winter Meetings on Monday. Whether there is any substance to these reports is anyone’s guess, but the possibility of Bay being dealt is clearly legitimate. Should he be on the block? To answer that question, let us look back a couple of years.
In 2005, Bay was one of the best values in baseball. He hit .306/.402/.559 with 44 doubles, 32 home runs and 95 walks. His VORP of 72.7 was fifth highest in Major League Baseball, he was 12 runs above average in left field and had an impressive WARP3 of 11.6. His EQA was .325, he had an ISO of .254 and he stole 21 bases in 22 attempts. For all of that production, the Pirates paid Bay only $355,000. After the season, he signed a four year, $18.25 million contract that would take him through his arbitration years. This may have been the best deal in baseball at the time. Bay was untouchable in a trade, although he would have brought a huge return if dealt.
In 2006, Bay’s numbers dropped slightly. However, he was still producing at an elite level. As you know, his performance totally fell apart in 2007. Bay hit .247/.327/.418 with 25 doubles, 21 home runs and 59 walks. His defense was seven runs below average and he had a WARP3 of only 3.9. He produced an EQA of .266 and his ISO dropped to .171.
Bay’s trade value has obviously dropped tremendously after his awful 2007 season. The task of Pirates’ management is to determine whether Bay is permanently declining or simply had a down season. If they believe he can rebound, he should not be dealt this offseason. A couple of productive months early in the 2008 season would cause his value to skyrocket. Trading him at that point would greatly increase the return. There are reasons to believe this would happen, as a few terrible months at the plate should not eliminate several years of high performance.
However, there are also indications that Bay will not return to his 2005 level. For example, here are Bay’s double totals in 2004-2007: 24, 44, 29, 25. Here are Bay’s line drive percentages during the same period: 17.5%, 23.8%, 15.6%, 16.5%. As you can see, the aberration is 2005. It is not likely that he will return to his numbers from that season. (Click here for more thoughts on Bay’s decline.)
So what can we expect from Bay in 2008? He will not be as good as he was in 2005. But he will not be nearly as pathetic as he was in the second half of 2007. I think his trade value will be much higher if the Pirates hold on to him for now.
Final Verdict: Keep until trade deadline 2008