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Who's going to give J. Bay a fifth year?

When Jason Bay's agent says his client is prepared to "move on" from the Boston Red Sox, it is only natural to read that and assume Bay is ruling out a return to the Red Sox. But I read it and assume just the opposite: Bay must really want to return to Boston for his agent to go public with his gripes against the team's negotiating stance. If the Red Sox won't listen to Bay's position, maybe they will listen to the outcry from the fans. Such is the nature of negotiating.

Two things seem clear at this point: One, Bay will be the first of the so-called elite free agents (a group that also includes right-handed starter John Lackey and fellow left fielder Matt Holliday) to sign. And two, Bay, who reportedly has gotten offers thus far in the range of $60 million over four years, will sign with the first team that offers a guaranteed fifth year.

Will someone make that plunge? Let's put it this way: Someone always does.

But it won't be the Red Sox. They are notorious for drawing lines in the sand -- and holding their ground. If they let Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon walk, they certainly aren't going to get all sentimental and cave in over Jason Bay. Besides, the Red Sox appear to be pursuing a postseason strategy focused upon defense. If they complete the trade of Mike Lowell to the Rangers, it is almost a given they will turn around and sign Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre. And their Plan B for left field, should Bay sign elsewhere, appears to be another former Gold Glove winner, Mike Cameron.

Bay's defense, meantime, is awful, as he has earned UZR figures of -11.5, -18.4 and -11.0 the past three seasons. He is also 31 years old, which makes it unlikely those minuses are all of a sudden going to start turning into pluses as he enters his mid-30s.

As for who might give Bay that fifth year... Ask yourself: What team has a history of adding the extra year in order to seal a deal, and is desperate enough -- because of a disastrous 2009 season -- to do such a thing?

Yeah, that's right. This has got Mets written all over it.

By Dave Sheinin  |  December 14, 2009; 11:23 AM ET
 
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