INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Jason Bay and the New York Mets ended their unproductive relationship after three miserable seasons when they agreed Wednesday to terminate the outfielder's contract with one guaranteed season remaining.
The deal makes the 34-year-old a free agent and allows the team to spread out the remaining $21 million it owes him.
"I still feel I have plenty to give to this game and that I can play baseball at a high level. But after serious consideration, both sides agree that we would benefit from a fresh start," Bay said in a statement released by the team.
After signing a $66 million, four-year deal before the 2010 season, the three-time All-Star hit .234 in three injury-plagued seasons with 26 homers and 124 RBIs, including a .165 average with eight homers and 20 RBIs this year. Sidelined by concussions and rib injuries, he played just 288 games for the Mets.
"I'm grateful we were able to reach an agreement to allow that to happen," Bay said. "I'm excited to keep playing and have no intention of just walking away. I enjoyed my time in New York. I have no regrets in signing with the Mets, other than that I wasn't able to play to the level that the team, the fans and I all expected and that we weren't able to win more games. I move on with nothing but an appreciation for the organization and its fans and best wishes to all my teammates there."
Bay was owed $16 million for next season and a $3 million buyout of a 2014 option, plus the final $2 million installment of his $8.5 million signing bonus was payable by next June. The agreement allows the Mets to spread out the payments, a person familiar with the agreement said, speaking on condition of anonymity because that detail was not announced.
"Jason has a tremendous work ethic. There was never any question about it," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "Unfortunately, the results weren't there, and we are in a results-oriented business."
An All-Star in 2005, 2006 and 2009, Bay signed with the Mets after hitting .267 in his final season for Boston with career bests of 36 homers and 119 RBIs.
"Jason is a great teammate, hard worker, standup guy, and true gentleman," Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said. "Like Jason, we had planned for the kind of production here that he enjoyed in Boston and Pittsburgh, where he established himself as one of the game's top players."
Tight on cash since the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme collapsed, the Mets will be able to lessen 2013 payments due Bay.
"It was only after we started looking at our plans for 2013 that we really started, even internally, to discuss the possibility and at that point Sandy decided, you know what, let me reach out and see if there's any appetite on their end to talk about it," assistant general manager John Ricco said.
Bay missed the final two months of the 2010 season because of a concussion sustained while slamming into the left-field fence to make a catch at Dodger Stadium. He was out for the first three weeks of 2011 with a strained ribcage. This year he was on the disabled list from late April until early June because of a broken rib, then missed another month with a concussion when he crashed into the wall at Citi Field while trying to catch an inside-the-park homer by Cincinnati's Jay Bruce.
"There's not a player who tried harder to succeed or was more frustrated and disappointed than Jason himself," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I'll miss Jason's presence in the clubhouse as a player, teammate, and person."
Bay joins the exodus of big-name players from the Mets, who have finished fourth in the NL East for four straight years. Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez left a year ago.
New York hopes to negotiate long-term deals with third baseman David Wright and pitcher R.A. Dickey, who both can become free agents after the 2013 season.