Bay a surprising target for Mariners

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Jack Zduriencik has emphasized defense time and time again since taking the helm in Seattle. He acquired Franklin Gutierrez to play center, picked up and then re-signed Jack Wilson for shortstop and he traded for Endy Chavez, Jack Hannahan and Ryan Langerhans to occupy lesser roles. All are players who have been rated very favorably by defensive statistics over the last year. He’s also exiled Yuniesky Betancourt and shopped Jose Lopez, two players not treated so kindly by the numbers.
That’s why the news that the Mariners are in hot pursuit of free agent Jason Bay came as something of a shock. Bay is one of the game’s worst defensive outfielders, according to UZR. He’s finished 10 runs below average each of the last three years, coming in at -40.8 runs in all.
Now, left field in Fenway Park is definitely a touchy area for defensive systems, given the presence of the Green Monster and the lack of ground that needs to be covered. But Bay was rated as being -25.8 runs below average during his final 1 2/3 seasons in Pittsburgh. He was average before that, but knee problems have taken a toll on his speed, and there’s considerably more ground to cover in Safeco, even accounting for the fact that Gutierrez will be of a lot of help getting to balls in left-center.
It’s not to say Bay wouldn’t be an asset. His 900 OPS has far more than made up for his defensive shortcomings these last couple of years. But he probably wouldn’t to post the same kind of line while playing half of his games in Safeco, a very difficult ballpark for right-handed power hitters, and by the time he’s in the second half of his likely four- or five-year deal, he may well be nothing more than an average regular.
In truth, he’s probably worth more to the Red Sox, given the small left field, than he would be to any other team. The Mariners could sign him with the idea of making him a first baseman or DH in a year or two. They’ll get the middle-of-the-order bat they need and become more of an immediate threat to the Angels. It’s just not worth the $70 million-$80 million it figures to cost.

John Lackey stole the first base of his career

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Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.

Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.

Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.

Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.

Video: Aaron Judge sends a baseball into the upper deck at Citi Field

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hit another jaw-dropping home run, victimizing Mets starter Robert Gsellman in the top of the fourth game of Wednesday night’s game at Citi Field. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t even move. The ball traveled 457 feet and was hit 117 MPH off the bat, according to Katie Sharp of River Ave Blues.

The home run moved Judge’s AL-best total to 37, putting him two ahead of the Royals’ Mike Moustakas. Along with the prodigious dinger total, he has 80 RBI, 90 runs scored, and a .291/.421/.616 triple-slash line in 499 plate appearances. Judge is on pace for 50 dingers. If it holds, that would give him the rookie record for home runs in a season. Mark McGwire currently holds the record, having hit 49 for the Athletics in 1987.