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Monday middlings: Jason Bay, Ben Sheets, Johnny Damon and Brandon Lyon

Right now, you'd have to guess that, of the "Big Three" free agents, Jason Bay will be the first to sign, ahead of Matt Holliday and John Lackey. That's based on Urbon's words over the weekend, which we discussed here yesterday, which were clearly designed to get things going.

How bad would it be if the Mets committed a fifth year to Bay and landed him? It wouldn't be ideal, for certain, particularly if, a year from now, the Mets said they coudln't engage in an exciting free-agent class because they were tapped out.

I would be curious, though, to see what kind of impact he had, back in the National League. His two best seasons, statistically, came in 2005 and 2006, with the Pirates; his 2007 was ruined by an injury, and then he joined the Red Sox on July 31, 2008.

Would he be that strong an offensive player again in the NL? Would he be worth 5.5 Wins Above Replacement, as he was in 2006?

One positive attribute about Bay is, the Mets can feel pretty certain that he won't get sucked into the negative vortex of, well, Mets-dom. True, the Red Sox are a far more successful franchise than the Mets, but Red Sox Nation - the fan base and media - is tough. Even logistically, peacefully co-existing in the small Red Sox clubhouse with the plethora of reporters can be challenging. But from what I saw and heard, Bay never struggled with that component of the job.

If Bay actually signed with the Mets, I think he'd look at the team's large clubhouse _ with plenty of hiding areas _ and also see teammates like David Wright and Jeff Francoeur dealing well with the media (and even Carlos Beltran makes himself accessible more than advertised) , and think, "Shoot, this ain't that bad."

In any case, I still think Bay will wind up returning to the Red Sox.

--If Ben Sheets has multiple suitors, and I have to think he will, then don't expect the Yankees to be the high bidders. The Yankees met with Sheets during the 2008 winter meetings in Las Vegas, and they backed away from him shortly after.

Yes, they were concerned about Sheets' physical well-being; how could they not be? But they also held worries about Sheets' clubhouse personality. Sheets frustrated Brewers teammates and superiors by missing so many starts over the years with injuries. The Yankees didn't want to get hit with the same agita.

--I read George King's story in which Johnny Damon said he hasn't received an offer from the Yankees yet, and I'm wondering what report Damon is disputing. I don't recall seeing any reports of an offer.

But the greater point is, the whole notion of an "offer" is overblown. The Yankees and Scott Boras, Damon's agent, have exchanged "proposals," or "ideas," or "concepts," or however you want to phrase it. They know where each other stands.

The "offer" becomes a big deal for publicity purposes, which is why expected skepticism arose last week upon hearing the Mets' offers to Jason Bay and Bengie Molina. Last year, in another example, the Yankees made sure to get out their offer for CC Sabathia on the first day of open free agency, as they wanted to scare off other suitors.

Ninety-five percent of the time, though, the "offer" is an organic thing, a very natural jump from a non-committal, "How would you feel about this?" to a committal, "OK, we're offering you this."

I'm just sayin'.

--I'm sure Bud Selig was furious with the Astros for giving Brandon Lyon a three-year, $15-million deal, and that makes me laugh.

You know what might have prevented Houston from making such a silly investment? A better farm system, with young arms ready to help out in the bullpen. You know why the Astros don't have a better farm system? In large part, because they draft players for signability, rather than plain old ability.

You know whom Astros owner Drayton McLane is trying to please when he adheres to the slot prices on draft picks? 

That's right, Bud Selig.

--Here's an update on Chien-Ming Wang.

--We'll be working at it all week here, so check back in.

New York Sports