A wonderful rumor has been floating around the baseball world this evening. Ken Rosenthal of Fox has reported that the New York Mets were considering dealing outfielder Jason Bay to the Miami Marlins for closer Heath Bell and catcher John Buck.
The deal looks like it is not going to happen, according to CBS Sports.com. That is a shame. It could have helped both teams and begun a new trend in trading horrible contracts.
Both the Mets and the Marlins have been disappointments in the second half of the 2012 season. Any hope for contention has faded away as they are both floundering below .500 in August and letting the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves pull away.
Jason Bay is no small culprit in the Mets' demise. He signed a four year deal coming over from Boston worth nearly $66 million. Nobody could have seen his production dipping so dramatically in CitiField.
Actually, that is not true. Virtually every Met fan I know felt this was a bust waiting to happen. And Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman predicted the signing would be a disaster before Bay played his first game as a Met.
Bay's performance was disappointing in his first injury-plagued season. It has fallen to the level of grotesque this year. His average is .156. His slugging is .289. His OPS+ is 50. He has driven in 10 runs.
His WAR is -1.1. That means his being in the lineup statistically loses games for the Mets. When he returned from the disabled list on July 17 of this year, the Mets had a winning record and were in striking distance of the Wild Card.
Meanwhile, Heath Bell has terrorized the Marlins and whatever is left of their fanbase in his first miserable year in Miami.
The former San Diego Padres star signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Marlins this off season but evidently forgot to bring his talents to South Beach.
Brought in to be the closer, he has been removed from that role twice this season. In another Bleacher Report article, I argued that his contract and the obligation to use him in the ninth was choking the Marlins' season.
Like Bay, Bell became a symbol of wasted money, diminished talent and a face to the failures of 2012.
So why not swap them?
What is the worst thing that can happen if Jason Bay patrolled left field in Miami and Heath Bell came out of the bullpen in New York? Are they about to spoil a pennant chance? Would they be unpopular with the fans?
How could either team be worse off than with the status quo? If Bell blew a save with the Mets, their fans could think "At least it is not Bay striking out." And Marlins fans would probably much rather see Bay's WAR dip than see their ninth innings become a Heath Bell adventure.
Perhaps a change of scenery is what those players need. Remember how Scott Brosius struggled with the Athletics and Jose Contreras and Jeff Weaver did not fit in with the Yankees? Each were dealt and became postseason heroes on World Series winners when they changed uniforms.
Maybe Bay and Bell need to get out of their toxic situations.
With the Marlins tossing in John Buck, the money would have evened out. Why not go through with it?
There is precedent for swapping awful contracts. Around the same time the Mets signed Jason Bay, the Mariners and Cubs made a bad contract-for-bad contract deal when Milton Bradley went to Seattle and Carlos Silva went to Wrigley. Silva won 10 games before breaking down. Bradley was released after personal problems affected his performance.
With so many awful contracts floating around baseball, maybe a deal like this would start a trend. Bad contracts dealt for each other could be the new rumor game for armchair General Managers.
Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Ryan Howard, John Lackey and Vernon Wells, among others, have damaging and unpopular deals. But they do not need to be unmovable.
Have Bay and Bell pave the way. Swap bad deals and see what happens. The worst case scenario is a team is stuck with a rotten contract. If that is already the status quo, then the deal is a risk worth taking.