I had a good talk in Port St. Lucie this morning with Mets outfielder Jason Bay, who shed some light on his interest in the Mariners (and vice versa) during the free-agent process.
There were rumblings throughout the winter, of course, that Bay, who lives in Kirkland (where his wife Kristen is from), really, really wanted to land with Seattle. The Mariners had a need for both a power hitter and a left fielder, so it seemed as if a connection was possible, despite whatever concerns the M’s might have had over Bay’s defense.
Bay wound up signing with the Mets, who gave him a four-year, $66-million deal right after Christmas.
Bay confirmed that his interest in Seattle was high — “absolutely” — but said that all along, they were just one of a handful of teams that he would have signed with. And while the Mariners did express interest, he said, they never made a serious push to get a deal done.
“I live in Kirkland. That would have been a natural fit. They had said they were interested, and they had a few other moves to make first. Ultimately, nothing ever materialized.”
I asked how far it got with the Mariners.
“Not very far. There was some mutual interest, but once the Mets came heavy, we got it done in two days. Seattle was kind of there the whole time, but it was never really anything, I guess you could say, super formal. It was always, ‘Hey, keep us in mind,’ but nothing formal.”
As for giving Seattle an edge because he lived there, Bay said, “No. Like I told everyone in Boston at the time, I get to do this one time in my life. If I’m at the end of my career, and I want to play on a team close to home, or this team or that team, I think it makes a difference. But when I’m in the middle of my career, I couldn’t limit myself geographically or any of that stuff.
“Seattle’s going to be my home, regardless. When this is over, I’ll be back there. But I definitely couldn’t limit myself to just having to say I want to play in one spot, whether it be Seattle or any place else.”
Asked if he was disappointed the Mariners didn’t pursue him more vigorously, he said, “No. Would I have liked to have played there? Yeah. But I would have liked to have played in three or four other places as well — this (the Mets) being one of them.
“I understand, in a perfect world, you want to go into free agency and say, this is the only place I want to play, and go there. But like I keep telling people, I had a list of teams. There were teams on there for different reasons. Seattle was on there, definitely. Geographically. It is what it is. I’m happy I ended up here. They made a good pursuit. It got done in two days, really, over Christmas.
“So I’m not disappointed, no. Honestly, it didn’t really cross my mind. I mean, I thought there was a chance, but once this started picking up, I never really thought I’d be going anyplace else.”
I’ll have much more from Bay, including his response to health and defensive concerns, that will run in Tuesday’s Seattle Times. This is the last stop in my “Grapefruits of Wrath” tour. Tomorrow, I’m flying home. I’ll be heading to Arizona shortly for some Cacti action.
(Photo by Associated Press)