Things tend to be fairly quiet between Christmas and New Year's Eve, but we've seen some big free agent signings go down during that week. Today marks the anniversary for two of them: Jason Bay signing with the Mets and Barry Zito to the Giants.
In the winter of 2009, the Mets agreed to a four-year, $66MM deal with former Red Sox slugger Jason Bay. The deal was panned by many critics at the time as they felt that the Mets were mortgaging their future with a heavily backloaded deal. The Mets agreed to give Bay $6.5MM in 2010 and $16MM in the following three seasons. The deal also included a $17MM club option for 2014, which could be 86'd for another $3MM. Of course, the two sides never got close to that point. After playing just 288 games across three seasons in Queens with a batting line of .234/.318/.369, the Mets and Bay agreed to an early expiration of his contract in November 2012. Bay will still earn the $21MM owed to him for the remainder of the deal, but the Mets will save a bit by being able to defer a portion of it.
Three years prior to that, the Giants made a statement when they signed Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126MM deal. At the time, the deal made the left-hander the highest paid pitcher in major league history. The deal was widely panned as an overpay and it's not clear how much the next-highest bidder was offering. The Rangers put a six-year, $80MM offer on the table and those spend-happy Yankees never got around to making a formal offer.
On the whole, Zito has struggled to pitch well consistently, but the left-hander found redemption last season. After pitching to a 4.15 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 across 32 starts in the regular season, Zito shined in a pair of postseason starts for San Francisco, including a strong effort in Game 1 of the World Series to give the Giants a 1-0 advantage.
Can Bay re-write his story as well? The Mariners took a low-risk flyer on the veteran this winter, signing him to a one-year, $1MM deal with $2MM in performance bonuses. Bay now has a chance at a tabula rasa, away from the scrutiny of the New York press and a short drive from his home in Kirkland, Washington.