INDIAN WELLS, Calif.
What does it say about Sandy Alderson's tenure as general manager of the Mets that his most significant moves have been dumping players rather than acquiring them?
Wednesday it was Jason Bay's turn, only this time there would be no spring training audition to prove his worth. The Mets believed Bay was such a lost cause they didn't even want him clogging their roster space for another four months.
Think about that. Perez and Castillo got another look-see, but not Bay, who will actually be paid more than those two -- every dime of the remaining $21 million on his contract -- to play for another team in 2013.
And yet, it had to be done. We know that because not only did the Mets initiate the terms of the separation, which will include deferred payments spread over the next several years, but Bay quickly agreed to them.
That's what makes this whole thing so astonishing. It's not like Bay was a bad seed. He was universally liked -- by management, his teammates and even the notoriously cynical media.
This was the Mets sizing up Bay after three years, made hazy by a pair of frightening concussions, and deciding that he was no longer capable of playing baseball in New York anymore.
Bay, his confidence shaken beyond repair, evidently didn't argue. The deal was struck in a matter of days. He took the money and left, with the blessing of the players' union and the commissioner's office.
Because it's the Mets, there is always a sense of underlying dread in these situations that Bay will sign for the minimum with the Padres or Mariners and slug 25 home runs next season. It could happen. The root of Bay's problems might be psychological, and once freed from the Mets, something may click for him again.
If that's the case, great for Bay. He's a quality guy, and after his mystifying decline in Flushing, maybe it's possible for him to have a happy ending. He gave max effort with the Mets and can't be vilified for his career suddenly going south, for whatever reason.
Now it's up to the Mets to make the costly split worthwhile. Alderson had been counting the days until 2014, when the GM would be free of the combined $50 million owed to both Bay and Johan Santana for next season. By deferring some of Bay's money, part of that weight has been lifted, and the Mets claim it gives them roster flexibility for 2013.
In reality, they need a lot more. The Mets remain confident they will hammer out a contract extension for David Wright, but those negotiations seem to be lagging. The plan is to extend R.A. Dickey as well, and a person familiar with the club's thinking said that jettisoning Bay was unrelated to the Mets' efforts to re-sign both players.
Also, neither Wright nor Dickey play the outfield, which is in disarray at the moment. Lucas Duda is the only one even penciled in for a starting spot at the moment, and he just had surgery this week to repair a fractured wrist.
"There's not a lot of righthanded power bats out there," assistant GM John Ricco said, "and the ones that are out there cost of lot in terms of either money or players, so you wanted to give [Bay] every chance."
By orchestrating the Bay break-up, Alderson has erased the last of the previous regime's more expensive blunders. But that's the easy part. Alderson is running out of other people's mistakes to correct. Now he needs to be more about finding solutions than identifying the problems.