Jason Bay reportedly has a mystery team bidding on him. But beyond the Mets, who remain keenly interested and in touch with his agent Joe Urbon, nearly all of Bay's market remains mystery at this point.
The Mariners are not a serious player for Bay, according to people familiar with the club's thinking. Plus, the Red Sox appear to have moved on, the Angels' interest seems limited at this point, the Giants' run at a hitter of this stature appears unlikely and the Braves don't seem to be in the bidding, either.
Meanwhile, Mets people remain hopeful but nervous about Bay, their top free-agent target, which explains why they are remaining in contact with Matt Holliday's agent, Scott Boras, as well, just in case. The Mets have offered Bay a four-year contract for close to $65 million and are believed to have signaled a willingness to go to five years at fewer dollars per year (perhaps close to $75 million for five).
But they chose to go for Bay first, in hopes avoiding what they believed would be protracted talks for Holliday, and they are feeling just a little antsy that Bay has yet to sign. They appear to be the favorite at this point. But until he's in the fold, they can't be sure.
SI.com learned that the Mets' hierarchy voted on their Plans A, B and C at the Winter Meetings and that Plan A was Bay and catcher Bengie Molina, Plan Bwas John Lackey and Molina and Plan C was Roy Halladay and Molina. With Lackey and Halladay now off the board, it has become more imperative the Mets sign one of the two big free-agent still on the board, with the emphasis on Bay. (The latest word on Molina was that talks were at a standstill with Molina asking for a three-year, $20-million deal, and the Mets willing to offer two at about half that price.)
While Holliday has obvious advantages to Bay, especially in the National League, where he has a higher OPS (.948 to .891) and higher batting average (.322 to .281), plus better defensive metrics, the Mets believe Bay would be a better and quicker deal for them. They also like him in their ballpark because he's a pull-hitter with loft, while they see Holliday as a gap-hitter whose power numbers could be impacted by Citi Field.
But with Bay not signing as quickly as they hoped, they have been engaging Holliday, as well, just in case. A report in WEEI in Boston said there was a mystery team offering five years for Bay. But that team remains a mystery since the Mets are obviously out there.
The Mariners are unwilling to go even to four years for Bay and are concentrating on pitching and defense in their own expansive park. The Angels are a slightly better possibility, though for the moment they don't even have an opening in left field. If they trade Juan Rivera, they could consider Bay, though an Angels person characterized that scenario as a long shot, which jibes with manager Mike Scioscia's comment at the Winter Meetings that suggested they had more pressing needs than a power-hitting left fielder, such as Bay.
The Angels talked a bit to the Braves about a deal of Rivera for Derek Lowe, but one person familiar with their thinking said they'd have more interest in Javier Vazquez. The Braves would require much more than just Rivera if they were to consider dealing Vazquez, who has performed much better in the National League and has balked at playing on the West Coast in the past. He complained about a tentative deal to send him to the Dodgers for Randy Johnson because he doesn't want to be far from his native Puerto Rico.
The Red Sox signed Mike Cameron to join with Jeremy Hermida in left field, and even if they wind up trading Jacoby Ellsbury and moving Cameron to center field ("unlikely'' said a Red Sox person), their negotiations with Bay just didn't work out, as they didn't believe it prudent to go much past $60 million for four years.
So for now, the Mets are the only team known to be in the bidding. Still, that's not the same as having the player signed.
• The Mariners have keen interest in locking up Cliff Lee after their great trade to land the star pitcher, but they've told Lee to get acclimated to Seattle first to see how much he likes it. The Mariners' No. 1 contractual priority remains Felix Hernandez.
• While the Padres are telling teams they have no wish to trade Adrian Gonzalez, he remains first on the Red Sox's wish list. If San Diego sticks to its word and keeps Gonzalez, Boston's next choice would be to sign Adrian Beltre and keep Kevin Youkilis at first base. The Red Sox certainly set themselves up nicely for a possible deal wince the Lackey and Cameron signings give them depth, and could possibly mean that Clay Buchholz and Ellsbury could highlight a nice package.
• The Dodgers' trade of Juan Pierre frees up some money for a middle infielder, and they have interest in Ronnie Belliard or Felipe Lopez.
• Cubs manager Lou Piniella wanted Cameron for center field, but the Cubs can't move on a center fielder until they unload Milton Bradley, which will happen at some point. The Cubs are said to be "hamstrung'' until they move Bradley.
• While Mike Lowell was found to have a thumb issue, people involved in the trade believe the deal to send him to Texas will be done in some form. The Red Sox appear to be considering him gone.
• The Mets are scouting Carlos Delgado in winter ball. Another first-base option for them could be Mark DeRosa.
• The Rangers were among other teams to show interest in Yakult Swallows reliever Ryota Igarashi, who signed a $3-million, to-year deal with the Mets.
• Nick Johnson is a nice player (.425 on base percentage) but it's a little curious the Yankees would let Hideki Matsui go to the Angels for $6 million, then be willing to sign Johnson for $5 million. They were said to be in talks for Johnson Thursday, though.
• Nice to see the Orioles getting serious this winter. The moves to acquire Kevin Millwood, Mike Gonzalez and Garrett Atkins should improve them. And while they have a nice starting outfield, their reported interest in Matt Holliday (via foxsports.com) is refreshing. Neither Nolan Reimold or Luke Scott is said to be proficient at first base, so a Holliday signing might sour a trade of one of their current corner outfielders.