November 19, 2009

Star free agent outfielder Jason Bay has declined Boston's initial contract offer and will head to full free agency, has learned.

Boston's offer to Bay was believed to be for four years and "close to $60 million,'' according to sources. Bay thus will join star outfielder Matt Holliday and ace pitcher John Lackey as the biggest free agents on this year's market. The exclusive period for incumbent teams expires Friday at 12:01 a.m., when free agents can begin negotiating with other teams.

"Nothing will happen by day's end, but we'll keep talking,'' Bay's agent Joe Urbon said.

"It's not a surprise that a player that's gone this far wants to see what's out there,'' Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said by phone in Bay's regard, though Epstein declined comment on the team's talks with Bay.

Bay has spoken glowingly of this time in Boston and was therefore seen as having an outside chance to agree to a contract within the exclusive 15-day period that began after the World Series ended, whereas Holliday and Lackey were viewed as having no chance to agree to quick deals with their old teams.

Baseball people who met with Epstein at the GM meetings say they believe he is even more resolved to win this year after the disappointment of seeing the Yankees win for the first time in his ultra-successful tenure (though Epstein maintained in interviews that his resolve is always the same and is not affected by the Yankees' performances). It is believed the team will look at Holliday as well as Bay now, though Epstein declined comment on their plans going forward.

The Mets, Cardinals, Giants and Braves are all interested in adding a corner outfielder with power, while the Yankees, Angels, Mariners and Cubs are viewed as possibilities to look at Holliday and/or Bay, as well. The Cardinals are one team that's said they will consider Holliday but not Bay.

Holliday's agent Scott Boras has invoked Mark Teixeira's name as a comparable for Holliday, suggesting $180 million is a fair target for him. Meanwhile, Urbon has called his client "the most complete'' player on the market.

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