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Each day, it is becoming less and less clear if the Red Sox will be able to retain Jason Bay. Since Bay came to Beantown in the Manny Ramirez deal, Sox fans have gotten more then they could have asked for. This past season, he had career highs of home runs (36) and RBI (119). He has been Theo Epstein’s choice for left field, but as he looks into the market, the Sox might have to look elsewhere.
Should Bay walk, look for the Red Sox to push hard to acquire St. Louis free agent outfielder Matt Holliday. Many believe the big free agent battle for top dollars will be between Bay and Holliday, who are the two biggest bats on the market. Both would also bring big contracts to left field, so who should Sox fans prefer?
He is a solid hitter and a better then average defensive threat. He can cover a lot of ground and lead a team when needed. Before the 2009 season, Sporting News ranked him 35th in the list of the 50 greatest current baseball players. Expected to file for free agency, the Rockies traded him to Oakland last offseason and was then shipped to St. Louis, when he had an unproductive stint with the A’s. In his first game with the Cardinals, he went crazy in a four-hit game with an RBI. His stats from St. Louis (13 home runs, 55 RBI’s, .353 average) were close to his stats in Oakland (11 home runs, 54 RBI’s, .286 average), but were accomplished in 30 fewer games.
However, if there is one thing that people will remember about Holliday from his 2009 season, it will be during the playoffs. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals got a pop fly which would have tied the divisional series at a game apiece. Holliday appeared to be under it, but lost the ball in the lights and dropped it. The Dodgers rallied behind the bloop double and won the game later that inning, and two days later knocked St. Louis out of the playoffs. Many criticized Holliday for not being clutch in October, which would be true if it wasn’t for 2007.
Two years ago, Holliday was the central piece of a Rockies team that shocked the world. Colorado won 21 of 22 games to not only earn a playoff appearance, but the clubs first World Series berth. He was second in the MVP voting after leading the NL in average (.340), hits (216), doubles (50), RBI’s (137), extra bas hits (92) and total bases (386). He was also named NLCS MVP after leading the sweep of the Diamondbacks. Do not think that he can’t produce like that again just years later. He would be a great fit in Boston and it’s hard to argue someone would be a better in left then him.
Still, if you were going to pick someone to start in left field next season over Holliday, look no further then Jason Bay. Believe it or not, Bay was part of three teams before he became a top player with the Pirates. Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos, he was traded to the Mets, and then was traded yet again and made his major league debut with the Padres. In 2003, he was traded to the Pirates and immediately had an impact. His first two seasons in Pittsburgh, Bay was hitting near .300, before he had two breakout seasons. During the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Bay’s batting average was over .300, and had back-to-back 100 plus RBI’s and 30 plus homerun seasons.
However, he struggled in 2007 while battling injuries. By 2008, he became part of the annual tradition of the Pirates dumping their star players. With Manny Ramirez run out of Boston, Bay stepped in and had big shoes to fill. His Boston debut saw him score the winning run in the 12th inning. He wasn’t the immediate impact player the Sox thought he would be, but he proved his worth next season. In 2009, he was named on the same Sporting News’ list of the top 50 players, as number 41. Bay had career highs in home runs (36) and RBI (119). However, he also was seventh in the league in strikeouts with 162.
After discussing Holliday’s struggles this past post season, Bay’s were nothing to celebrate either. Needing a big bat, Bay was a staggering 1-8 with three strikeouts, three walks and zero RBI’s, and it was no wonder why the Red Sox could not compete with the Angles. His .125 batting average was horrendous; there is no other way to look at it. However, Bay has history in Boston. When he became a United States citizen this past summer, he had a ceremony held in Faneuil Hall.
Still, Bay apparently wants to be closer to his home in Seattle and will see what teams offer him a deal, if the Sox want to keep him they’ll have to open their wallets, which is the same with Holliday. Which make one wonder, why don’t the Sox look elsewhere?
The Red Sox are always one of the big spenders in the offseason. They are currently looking at some big name players to come in, including Roy Halladay. However, Boston has a great farm system and could always bring someone in midseason as they have in the past (remember Jacoby Ellsbury?), which means they can be looking at someone to fill the void in left for a while, at a fraction of the cost to Holliday or Bay.
Rick Ankiel, Marlon Byrd, Mike Cameron, Scott Podsednik, Gary Sheffield, So Taguchi, former Red Sox OF Coco Crisp, and former World Series MVP Jermaine Dye are some of the names that can take up left, if only for part of the season. Some are coming off strong seasons, as to be expected with pending free agents. There is always Johnny Damon as well, but after going to the Yankees, it would be hard to welcome him back.
There are other options besides Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, but would Red Sox fans feel cheated if they didn’t land a top free agent?
It’s hard to say who would be a better fit. Sox fans have seen what Bay has to offer and it has been good. There is always the chance Holliday can come in and become another potential MVP for Boston. They are both potent offensive weapons, but Holliday’s defense could be a bigger factor. If it came down to these two guys, you have to think Sox fans would choose Bay. Why go through a new relationship when the one you’re in works? Still, anything can happen in the offseason, so don’t be too surprised if you see Damon roaming left field next season!