The Mets have reached an agreement with free-agent outfielder Jason Bay, according to a major-league source. The four-year deal is worth $66 million, with a vesting option for a fifth year, according to the source. If Bay reaches the requirements for the option to vest, the five-year deal would be worth over $80 million. The contract also includes a $17 million option for 2014 with a $3 million buyout.
The requirements for the option to vest should be easy for Bay to reach, according to the source. Bay has had 600 or more plate appearances in each of the last five years, and he does not have to come close to that to get the vesting option guaranteed.
Bay set career highs with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs last season for Boston. The 31-year-old outfielder is a lifetime .280 hitter and has averaged 30 homers and 99 RBIs in his six full seasons in the majors.
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Bay and left fielder Matt Holliday were the biggest hitters on the market. Holliday, who split last season in Oakland and St. Louis, is seeking an even richer deal than Bay.
Picked by many to be a playoff contender last season, the Mets never got into the race during their first season at Citi Field. Despite the addition of record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez, New York couldn’t overcome injuries to the likes of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. By the end of the year, the Mets were fielding makeshift lineups on a daily basis.
The vast left field at the new ballpark turned into a revolving door, with eight players starting at least seven games there. Gary Sheffield, Cory Sullivan and Daniel Murphy spent the most time at the spot.
Pressure on the Mets to boost their roster heightened even more this winter when their city rivals, the World Series champion Yankees, traded for All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Javier Vazquez and signed free agent Nick Johnson.
The Mets recently signed free agent pitcher Kelvim Escobar, who’s been beset by injuries, and added backup catcher Henry Blanco. But finding a major player was their priority and they hope Bay, a star since becoming the 2004 NL Rookie of the Year, will put them on the right track. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.