Should the Pirates sign Bay long-term?

Let me begin by making my opinion clear. I think the Pirates should definitely attempt to trade Jason Bay before the deadline, and acquire as much young talent as possible in return. That is definitely the best course of action for the team. But I thought I should look at how advantageous it would be to sign him to a long-term contract.
I’ll start by going over the positive aspects of keeping him. Obviously, Bay is a premier talent. Here are his yearly numbers (AVG/OBP/SLG) over his five full seasons in baseball:
2004 – .282/.358/.550
2005 – .306/.402/.559
2006 – .286/.396/.532
2007 – .247/.327/.418
2008 – .285/.384/.524
He has proven through his performance this season that 2007 was an anomaly, whether that was due to injuries or other variables. Outside of that year, he has consistently been one of the best hitters in baseball. And there are indications that Bay will age pretty well. Players like him, with many different skill sets, tend to do so. He hits for good power and decent average. He has good on-base skills, with very good plate discipline and a high walk rate. He also is an above-average base runner, with a career stolen base success rate of 82%. When some of his physical abilities begin to erode with age, he will have much to fall back on.
If the Pirates begin trading their veterans for prospects, the team could get very young very quickly. It will be difficult to replicate the production the Bucs would receive from Bay. In addition, the team would lose the player that has been the face of the franchise for the last few years.
Now, the most important question: can the Pirates afford Bay? Sure they can. The team definitely has the ability to boost the payroll, and budget increases have become much more realistic with the new regime in control. As Dejan points out in yesterday’s Q&A, next year’s outfield could be some combination of Bay, Nate McLouth, Andrew McCutchen and Steve Pearce. McLouth will receive a raise in his first year of arbitration, but McCutchen and Pearce will earn close to the league minimum. In addition, there is quite a bit of salary expected to come off the books in the next year or two. There is plenty of money there to retain Bay.
But just because they can keep him, does that mean they should? The Pirates are very far from fielding a competitive team. Probably three or four years away. Sure, they may squeak out a .500 season or two, but it will take some serious rebuilding to make them actual contenders. Bay will be approaching his mid-thirties by that point, soaking up millions of important dollars the entire time. The best-case scenario probably would see the Pirates competing in 2011. By that time, the core group will be Ryan Doumit and McLouth in their prime years, Pedro Alvarez and McCutchen playing the part of developing youngsters, and hopefully some other talented young players that have yet to be acquired. If Bay is still around, he will no longer be quite the middle of the order presence that he is now. Most likely, he will be an aging veteran superstar that is controlling a large portion of the payroll.
Or the Pirates could trade Bay, and bring back two or three top prospects. That would free up many millions of dollars for the next several years, and would hopefully add a couple pieces that will help a few years down the road.
Quite simply, the Pirates are not in the right position to offer Bay a big contract. They need to totally rebuild their organizational talent first, and costs at the Major League level should be kept low until that happens. Hopefully in a few years, the team will be at the point where they can spend some money to add the final pieces to a quality team. Right now, spending big money on Bay would be wasting resources.

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13 Responses to “Should the Pirates sign Bay long-term?”

  1. Morning links: No one blocks anyone - PBC Blog - post-gazette.com Says:

    […] Bandi at Pittsburgh Lumber Co. breaks down whether or not the club should extend Jason Bay. Posted Jul 20 2008, 01:06 AM by Dejan […]

  2. Squireboy Says:

    What if they were to lock up Bay long-term, THEN turn him for prospects? Nahhh.
    I’m such a homer, I’d hate to see Bay or Wilson go. One of those two or both are the face of the franchise….
    But SOMEBODY’s gotta go…. X man?

  3. PhillyJake Says:

    “Or the Pirates could trade Bay, and bring back two or three top prospects. ”
    If he can bring back Two or Three top prospects, then, yes, trade him. I’m not so sure there’s anyone willing to give up two top prospects for Jason Bay.
    Based on my assumption, and until someone from the minors pushes him (and no one, including McCutcheon is right now), the Pirates should try to retain him.

  4. Pburgher Says:

    I find it very funny that so many members of media talk about Jason Bay like he is going to fall off the face of the earth in 2-3 seasons. Poppycock…He is a world class athlete and wont be dropping off his game at 32 yrs old. He still has at least 4-6 yrs of above average numbers left in him. His knees are obviously healthy again. The pirates dont have to trade anyone right now. Let alone sell off Bay at marginal cost. If I am Neal, my conference calls sound something like this. “Unless 2 of your top 3 pitching prospects in the organization are available, I think we are wasting one anothers time.” The appropriate move in my opinion is to try and deal Nady, Marte, and Wilson. I dont think Wilson command a top tier prospect, but there is no reason why we cant aquire 2-3 mid shelf players in return for him. Other organizations middle of the road prospects are still more valuable than the majority of our top prospects. If depth is what we need to build a winner, you cannot swing for the fences to dump talent every July. I fully expect Bay to be offered a contract extension. I would also like to remind members of the media that the offensive ability of this lineup is rather fierce, If you can manage to keep the core intact, and add 2 Pitchers that can eat some serious innings for you to lead off our starting rotation, this is an above average team. Not World Series contender, but still an above average team.
    After 15+ yrs of losing culture, and above average team is what the bucs need to fill the seats. We need a team that can rid us finally of our losing culture, and give families and basbeall fans alike a reason to go to the ballpark again.
    Plus if Bay gets and extension, he could always be traded 2-3 yrs down the road. The pirates if they are intelligent, will be moving Doumit to first base to prolong his career and also increase his number of at bats(much less silly injuries if he is removed from behind the plate) This puts a need to find another catcher for the long haul. Because something tells me that Ron Paulino is not the answer. Adam LoRoche, barring accepting league minimum wont be back in this city next year. Our fans deserve players who show up all season long…not just a couple months. McCutcheon is NOT major league ready. He still needs more time to develop in triple A. Steve Pearce is your right fielder next year barring some major deals before July 31st.

  5. mattenat Says:

    I’m not terribly convincd that Bay will age well. When you have a bad season in your prime because of knee injuries it doesn’t speak well of your ability to continue to perform when your knees naturally get worse.
    The point about Bay having lots of different skills and thus a likelihood of aging well is a good one. Usually players like that do age better. I’m not sure he’s that player any longer, though. I don’t give him a plus for his speed anymore, he has 6 SB this year, he had 4 last year and 11 the year before that. There was only season one season of 20 steals. As for average, he’s usually around 280, which isn’t particularly high. He’s a bad fielder at this point in his career. He can still hit for power and gets on base, those are positive signs. But I wouldn’t go so far as saying he’s got a ton of different skills at this point.

  6. Bryan Says:

    I disagree with keeping Jason Bay. He is a very good player but moving him at the trade deadline makes sense and having Andrew McCutchen (whom is MLB ready) is a great luxury to have for the Pirate organization.
    The Pirates are not a very good team right now and restocking the minors (which lacks depth) again makes a lot of sense.
    Please take a page from Billy Beane (A’s GM) and move a player at their peak value to remain competitive in MLB.

  7. Matt Bandi Says:

    mattenat: I disagree about Bay’s speed, as I think he has been running extremely well this season. Every time he runs out a ground ball, it surprises me how quickly he gets down the line. He has reached on an infield single on 18% of all ground balls hit, which is pretty remarkable. He only has six stolen bases this year, but that is because he hasn’t attempted many. Since the beginning of 2005, he has stolen 42 bases in 46 attempts, a success rate of 91%. That is fantastic.
    Other than that, you make some good points. I wonder if Bay will be forced to switch positions at some point down the road, maybe to first base. That will further lower his value.

  8. gerard smith Says:

    Two or three top prospects for Jason? Good luck! How about one pitching prospect and settle for a potential #2 guy? If you are enamored with our pitching and love Bay’s play in the vast acreage of LF at PNC when catchers routinely run from 1st to 3rd on singles to left, then by all means stay put. I am personally tired of seeing our “junk” pitchers nibbling at corners to be effective, getting behind 0-2, coming in with a “mistake” (this is any pitch in the strike zone) to catch up in the count, and getting hammered! To be fair, this doesn’t happen sometimes until the 2nd or 3rd inning at which time we are only down by 1-7. By his own admission, Jason has the 2nd strongest arm in his family—after only his younger sister (he outhrew his grandma by a good 50′). I agree with Collier—the only untouchables on the team are Doumit and McLouth.

  9. JRoth Says:

    I must say that I don’t understand the premise that the Pirates should be looking to 2011. Matt identifies 4 MLB-quality players that we can expect (hope) to see in the field (we have 5 now – 6 if you think Freddy’s 2008 is a fluke). As we know, there are effectively no MLB-quality arms in the pipeline (Tony Watson, I guess; maybe a couple other guys in A-ball, but why should we assume any of them will turn out better than Gorzo, JVB, or Bullington?).
    In other words, there is no concrete reason to expect this team to get better, rather than worse, in the future. Now, of course, if someone wants to give us real prospects for Bay/Nady/Marte/Wilson, that’s worth looking at. But even fantasy trades – say, Jurrjens for Wilson – don’t necessarily make this team better (Wilson’s absence cost as many games as Jurrjens’ presence would have gained us – after all, coming out of Florida, Jair replaces Morris and Dumatrait, not Gorzo and Snell).
    What I hear when I read “break up the Bucs” is “maybe every trade will gain us 2 MLB-quality players for 1.” We all know that doesn’t happen. Get rid of every veteran we have, and we’d be lucky to get back to even on them, talent-wise. In the short term, we’re looking at 100 loss seasons, and in the long term, we’re right back where we are – a team a couple front-line starters away from contention.

  10. JRoth Says:

    Somehow I didn’t see gerard’s comment before I wrote mine, but it’s nicely illustrative: yes, if someone wants to give us Chad Billingsly for Bay, of course you grab him (esp. since we do have, supposedly, one MLB-quality minor league OF). But what are we really going to get? A triple-A prospect who might be the next Matt Cain or Paul Maholm. And some bum who never sees 2011 in a ML uniform.
    So what do we do? Keep ’em. Maybe let go of Marte or Nady, if we get a legit, AAA prospect in return. Find a good free agent pitcher for next year. Hope that 2 out of Freddy, Snell, and Gorzo bounce back. And you have a strong offensive team with a mediocre pitching staff that can compete.
    This year, if you replace Morris with Dumatrait from Day One, replace Snell with a replacement-level journeyman, and replace Gorzo with a 2-3 type pitcher, this team is 10 games over .500, and in contention. Now, that’s all past, and you can’t just wave a magic wand to get such players (although the pitchers I describe aren’t scarce commodities). But I think it shifts one’s perspective to realize that this group of Pirates is 2 replacement-level starters from contending for a very tough division. Blow it up, and we’re another decade away, AFAIC.

  11. mattenat Says:

    @matt brandi he’s leading the league infield hit percentage and it’s _way_ over what he’s done previously. i’m gonna go with sample size fluke as opposed to indicative of speed (Ryan Braun is 3, Youkilis is 6, Gregor Blanco is 7). as for his sb%, that’s all well and good, but the fact that he’s never running means he’s likely only stealing when he’s being given second base, not that he’s maintaining his speed.
    @jroth With how poor our defense is, I think we’ve had replacement level pitchers, they just haven’t given us replacement level results.

  12. Pburgher Says:

    Im not saying that 4-5 yr rebuild (actually done properly) isnt the way to go, but im just suggesting that it isnt practical. The organization cannot afford to lose for 4-5 yrs. I feel the $ amount we ‘should’ be able to retain Bay for is pretty darn well spent. If you measure his career averages per season, his production will be more than 9-11 mill per year he is gonna be looking for.
    Adrian Beltre is due 10.4 mill next season. Just as an example. And this is not unordinary in the big leagues… heck, remember we were paying Matt Morris 10 mill this year. Bay is worth every penny. When you can retain an asset like him while still using your other pieces to reload depth in the minor league system.
    But in the same breath, I do believe you are forced to listen if you can get 2 solid top tier prospects(at least 1 of which a starting pitcher).

  13. BIllG Says:

    Why are so many people just accepting that trading Bay will automatically enhance this team? Where are the PBC going to find a player with similar talent and MLB HISTORY of putting up good to outstanding numbers with the payroll issue?? Trading Bay puts McLouth in his spot as top hitter. Assuming Nady goes, you now have 2 spots to fill to get his OBP, RBI and SLG #’s. That puts enormous pressure on Nate with 2 holes to fill. LaRoche is hitting better, but can the Bucs afford to have him take the first 3 months off AGAIN next year?? Sanchez could be done. By trading Bay, you are HOPING your best young players McLouth and Doumit get enough hitting to make the Pirates a winner. They will still have to get at least 2 quality bats if Nady AND BAY are traded. Sure sounds like we can wait until 2012 or 2013 for a winner…oh, wait, we will still be losing and we will be talking about trading Nate and Doumit then. Trading Bay is not the answer. BTW, Beane and his moneyball is just that….playing to win on the cheap. Thing is, the A’s have a great deal of prospects to arrive, unlike the Pirates. They can afford to play the “reality/fantasy baseball game”. The Pirates can’t. PLUS, the A’s have to beat 3 teams out to win the West…it’s five in the NL Central.


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