|Jason Bay||LF||.278/.368/.491||.265/.361/478||.286/.373/.522 (total)|
This is one of those happy and rare occasions where a Pirate not only outperforms ZiPS, but outperforms our typically optimistic community projections as well. Blyleven Curve Ball pegged Bay at .285/.370/.525, which just nailed it; there's not much else to say. Nice work. Vlad was extremely close also.
Bay's incredibly disappointing 2007 season was, as it turned out, just a blip. His OPSes the last five years now go 132, 150, 138, 93, and 133. One of those isn't like the others. Bay was also very consistent in 2008, posting at least an .821 OPS in every month and not missing a beat after being traded to the American League. Encouragingly (to his new employers, at least), Bay also stole 10 bases without being caught, suggesting he's healthy (although, to my eyes, he doesn't run as well as he used to). He may well have several years of excellent productivity left.
This isn't to say that Neal Huntington didn't trade Bay at the right time, however. The career of Bobby Higginson is still a cautionary tale. Higginson posted an 88 OPS+ in an injury-plagued age-28 season in 1999, just as Bay had an injury-plagued age-28 season in '07. Higginson then bounced back and hit well for two more years, after which the Tigers signed him to a four-year, $35 million contract. Higginson's skills promptly eroded and the contract turned out to be a colossal waste of money.
Bay and his agent might have been amenable to signing another extension with Pittsburgh, but the chances are good that would have been a mess--maybe not a mess on a Higginson-type scale, but Higginson's and Bay's careers parallel eerily, and their skill sets are relatively similar. With the Pirates nowhere near ready to contend, Huntington had to trade Bay, and he was right to wait to let Bay re-establish himself at the beginning of the season, just as he was right to trade Bay once his resurgence was evident.
Who Bay was traded for is another matter. Andy LaRoche was one of the key components of the deal, and I was very excited to get him at the time, but he was a spectacular flop in a two-month trial with the Bucs. Craig Hansen was horrible also, and Brandon Moss, who filled Bay's spot in the outfield, really wasn't a whole lot better. Moss and especially LaRoche both deserve lots of chances to get back on track and I hold out hope for LaRoche in particular, but if they don't turn it around this trade could quickly boil down to Bryan Morris, who's little more than an exciting live arm at this point.