Sunday, March 1

State of Bay

In an offseason where the Sox have made great efforts to lock up their young talent, one young-ish talent is still wondering where he stands. Jason Bay isn't part of the home-grown youth movement Theo's spent the offseason negotiating with, but he does have a contract up at the end of the year, and he's talking like he wants to make Boston his home.

The first few days in camp, Bay let everyone and their mother know that he's willing to be reasonable when it comes to contract negotiations. Over the last few days, however, he's hardened a bit and is starting to sound more like a man getting some advice from his agent. Nothing wrong with that, but Sox fans have had precious little information on where the Sox stand on Bay. And arguably, this will be one of the franchise's more important development decisions this season.

Early in camp the Sox announced they were going to work top prospect Lars Anderson into various outfield schemes to see how he did. Possibly this is a short-term maneuver---a way of getting Anderson up into the big league this year as a...sixth...seventh outfielder backing up the MGH platoon. On the other hand, the Anderson move could be long-term. Nobody in the Sox organization seems to think too highly of his defensive skills, and no one seems excited about the prospect of him anchoring down an infield position. Young guys almost never come up at DH, so the eyes seemed to have turned to left field. Which is where Bay stands, looking back.

So the Sox are at a cross-road. Sign Bay to an extension, keep him in left, roll the dice long-term with Anderson developing as a first baseman, and if Anderson's ready to step in, move Youk to his preferred third base. But Mike Lowell has two years left, and the Sox are showing signs that they want Anderson up sooner rather than later. Another option: let Bay leave at the end of the season, keep Youk and Lowell in the infield for another year, and insert Anderson into an outfield platoon and hope he thrives.

Both scenarios make some blind assumptions, namely---that the Sox aren't going to look to move or phase out Lowell somehow (that'll depend on this season's bounce back from injury no doubt) and that the Sox plan on keeping Anderson long-term. It also depends on who appears to be on the market later this year. It could very well come down to the talent pool for outfielders v. first baseman.

That said, the Bay situation is more than just your typical contract negotiation. This has a lot of moving parts. But for the time being, Bay is the one talking about contracts. Politely, but still talking. The Sox, as usual, are playing it close to their vest.

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