Mets playing dangerous waiting game with Bay

BY Ken Rosenthal • December 22, 2009

The Mets’ strategy with Jason Bay is clear:

Wait him out. Sign him at their price.

The strategy is fine, assuming no other club is bidding for Bay.

But how can the Mets know that? How can anyone?

If the Mets want Bay, they might need to act sooner than later. And if they want him, they might need to meet his price.

Bay, 31, thrived in the high-intensity Boston market. Still, he is a low-key Canadian from the Pacific Northwest -- and, as a free agent, he gets to choose his next team.

Why would he sign with the Mets -- a team that is coming off a 70-win season and could fire its manager and general manager by July -- if he had a better option?

Such an option might not be readily apparent. But I find it difficult to believe that the Mets are the only team on Bay, just as I find it difficult to believe that the Cardinals are the only team on Matt Holliday.

The market for both players is unclear. I doubt it is non-existent.

Just consider some recent free-agent signings:

The Mariners never went public with their interest in third baseman Chone Figgins. The Rangers were not thought to be a major player for right-hander Rich Harden. The Red Sox barely were linked to right-hander John Lackey.

Teams usually disguise their intentions in free agency. Surprises are not uncommon. Remember when the Yankees signed free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira last offseason? The Yankees were not even thought to even be pursuing Teixeira until practically the moment they signed him.

I cannot tell you which other teams are on Bay. I cannot say for certain that the Mets even face competition. But it stands to reason that certain clubs increased their interest after Bay ended his talks with the Red Sox. It also stands to reason that certain clubs might be trying to slip in under the Mets.

The Mariners certainly are preferable for Bay geographically; he is from Trail, B.C., his wife is from Kirkland, Wa. The M’s additions of Figgins, left-hander Cliff Lee and even left fielder Milton Bradley demonstrate that GM Jack Zduriencik is trying to build a contender.

Bay no longer seems to fit after the trade for Bradley. But maybe that would change if Bay offered himself to the M’s on a short-term, high- dollar deal.

The Angels loom as another possibility, even though manager Mike Scioscia has downplayed his team’s interest in Bay. Scioscia spoke at a time when the Angels were still focused on Lackey. If, for example, the Angels traded left fielder Juan Rivera for Braves right-hander Derek Lowe, perhaps they would circle back to Bay.

Then there are the Giants. They, too, say they are not interested in Bay. But really, does anyone know what the heck they’re doing?

Don’t get me wrong -- the Mets are in serious discussions with Bay, and remain the leading contender to sign him. But Bay almost certainly would take less to sign with a less dysfunctional outfit. The longer these negotiations drag on, the greater the chances that other teams will jump into the bidding.

I can’t say that it will happen. I don’t know that it will happen.

My point is, neither do the Mets.

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