So Terry Collins said something interesting yesterday afternoon. With the Mets scheduled to face three righthanders this weekend against Cincinnati, he said that both Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda would play all three games, leaving one outfield spot to be shared between Andres Torres, Scott Hairston and Jason Bay.
Now, Hairston signed on to be a reserve outfielder. Torres effectively has been one already, with the emergence of Nieuwenhuis. But remember: Collins said that when Jason Bay returned, he’d return to full-time play. Now, after five games, that has changed.
Look, Bay has been awful since his return. He’s 1-for-21. But he hadn’t played in almost two months. And if the Mets wanted to give him a chance to play regularly, five games really shouldn’t change things.
None of the three hitters stack up as much of an option against righties. Bay is a .492 OPS hitter against righties in 2012, .629 in 2011. Torres checks in at .505 in 2012, .657 in 2011. And Hairston is an even .600 in 2012, and a robust .886 in 2011-though that was while hitting just .216, and flew in the face of his career norms, struggling against righties.
The question with Bay always comes back to his contract. He’s owed $16 million this year and $16 million next year. Trading him, even if he immediately started hitting, is still probably a pipe dream-what team is taking him on if he hit for the next month and a half, given that he hasn’t for 2.5 years? After all, he can still accrue enough plate appearances to trigger a $17 million option for 2014.
All things being equal, an outfield of Torres, Nieuwenhuis and Duda probably makes the most sense, given the relative parity of the bats and the need for Torres’ defense to help offset Duda’s. But Jason Bay, unlike Torres and Hairston, is pretty certain to be a Met in 2013, or at least, to be one of the people the Mets pay the most in 2013. So they probably ought to give him more time to turn it around. He isn’t blocking anyone who is a key part of their future right now. And like it or not, that contract makes Bay a key part of that future, in one way or another.