Some thoughts on Bay winning last roster spot

BayCatchThe Mariners made it official today, choosing Jason Bay for their final outfield spot while designating Casper Wells for assignment.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone, given Bay was with the team on its final road trip to Salt Lake City while Wells was left behind in Peoria playing Minor League games. The Mariners waited until the last minute Sunday to make a move for two reasons: In case Bay or Franklin Gutierrez or someone else got hurt in Salt Lake, and because they would have liked to trade Wells if they could get anything in return rather than cut him loose for nothing.

They delayed that process a bit with a procedural move Sunday. Baseball rules preclude designating a player for assignment at the end of Spring Training unless the club has to make a move to open up a spot. So the Mariners added right-hander D.J. Mitchell to their 40-man roster, which allowed them to then DFA Wells, then they optioned Mitchell to Triple-A Tacoma.

Now they have 10 days to trade, release or outright Wells to the Minors. Since he’s out of Minor League options, the only way he could be outrighted is if he clears waivers and isn’t claimed by another team.

There’s a possiblity of that, since any team that claims him would need to add him to their 25-man roster and then would face the same situation, either needing to keep him on their Major League roster or DFA him and try to get him through waivers again.

It’s part of baseball, a complicated part for sure. So we’ll see what happens. There’s likely a team out there that would like Wells and chances are he’ll find a new home. But let’s be honest, if there was a big trade market for him, he’d already be dealt.

There are lots of opinions bouncing around on the wisdom of choosing Bay over Wells. I can see both sides on that one, as Wells is younger, is a better defender and has potentially four more years of team control.

But it’s hard to ignore the presence Bay brought this spring, to the offense, to the clubhouse, to a team that has a different feel to it with the addition of Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Bay.

It’s nice to see the Mariners gearing up to try to win now and clearly they feel Bay can help them do that more than Wells.

For his part, Bay downplayed the one-on-one part of the roster competition.

“All along, I think a lot of people pitted it as Casper and I or whoever it was,” he said. “But I was more worried about myself. I felt if I took care of my business, which I feel like I did, then I really couldn’t have any regrets.”

Bay is a better all-around baseball player than I expected to see when he arrived after the three-year disaster with the Mets. He has a quick bat with some pretty good pop and is a better defender than he gets credit for, even if he’s not in Wells’ class there.

Eric Wedge feels it’s important to not get stuck thinking that players will be pigeon-holed into the same roles they have at the start of the year, that things can happen and reserves might become starters at some point. Bay might not be a fifth outfielder all year. Should Michael Morse get hurt, let’s say, then Bay could quickly become an everyday guy.

Bay isn’t worried about any of that at the moment. He said he’s fine being the fifth outfielder, he just wants a role on a team that he’s enjoyed being part of this spring.

“That was a big part of me signing here,” he said. “I had chances to go elsewhere and maybe get more playing time, but I wasn’t doing this to boost value for next year. I was doing it to have fun this year, in whatever capacity that  might be, 200 at-bats or 600 at-bats, just see where the chips fall. I love the guys in there, it’s been fun and I’m a Northwest guy. There are a lot of reasons I think it’ll be good.”

Bay went through much misery with the Mets the last few years. Think Chone Figgins, with a bigger salary and expectations. So he’s felt refreshed by coming to Seattle on a $1 million, make-good deal.

“It was kind of the first time I really had to make a team, even from 10 years ago and my first couple years,” he said. “I actually kind of liked it. It was different. I never really thought otherwise. I felt comfortable with myself and what I’ve done. From the day I signed here, I was on the team in my own mind. I just had to still go out and do that and I’m glad I did.”

He said the biggest thing this spring was getting off to a quick start, showing himself and others he really could still play and compete.

“Part of it was just in the offseason working on some things and then getting off to a good start,” he said. “No matter what anybody tells you, that’s one of the most important things anywhere. It lets you relax and you’re not swimming up stream a lot of times. That was big. Just all the stuff I did in the offseason that put me in position to get off to a good start and then exhale a little bit and just play.”

Exactly how much he plays remains to be seen. But without question, his presence is a sign of one thing. The Mariners like what their new group of veterans has added this spring and they believe they’re a better team with Jason Bay in the mix.

1 Comment

I liked Wells for that utility OF spot. But Bay does bring more offense and is better at defense than is Morse. So probably all in all not a bad move.

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