Pirates agree to multiyear deal with Bay
PITTSBURGH -- For a player who doesn't show much emotion on the field, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jason Bay almost displayed a rarely seen side of himself after signing a contract that sets him up for life.
He nearly cried -- an understandable sentiment for a 22nd-round draft choice who went through four organizations before becoming a major league regular.
Coming off two of the best career-starting seasons in Pirates history, Bay agreed Thursday to a four-year, $18.25 million contract that covers his arbitration-eligible seasons.
"I just came from a wedding for one my best friends, and I started to cry and get all emotional like you do at weddings," Bay said. "As I got up here, I thought, 'Geez, I hope I don't do that right here.'"
The contract represents a huge pay boost for the 27-year-old Bay, who indeed became teary-eyed at one point during his news conference. He made $355,000 last season after having his contract renewed by the team, and was not eligible for arbitration until after next season. He won't become eligible for free agency until after 2009.
His agreement calls for a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $750,000 next year, $3.25 million in 2007, $5.75 million in 2008 and $7.5 million in 2009. His salary in the final year could also escalate by up to $750,000.
"This is one of the best days of my life," said the left fielder, his team's only All-Star last season. "But I'm glad this is over. This is an experience I will never forget."
The Pirates preferred a five-year deal that would have included his first year of free agency. Bay wanted four years so he could become a free agent on schedule -- partly because he will be 31 before he can negotiate his next contract.
Bay followed his 2004 NL Rookie of the Year season by hitting .306 with 32 homers, 101 RBIs, 110 runs scored, 21 stolen bases and a .402 on-base percentage in 2005 despite playing on a team that lost 95 games. He finished 12th in the NL MVP voting after playing in all 162 games.
"It's spectacular what he's done so far in the big leagues," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "I don't have any doubts he will continue to improve throughout his career."
In 2004, Bay hit .282 with 26 homers and 82 RBIs in 120 games while becoming the first Rookie of the Year in club history. He won the award despite missing the first five weeks of the season after shoulder surgery.
Bay, acquired from San Diego in August 2003, isn't worried about the pressure to perform that's associated with any big contract.
"I've been dealing with the pressure since I got drafted -- a 22nd-round draft pick," Bay said. "I felt pressure coming here in a big trade -- Brian Giles, how are you can follow that up? I handled that and won Rookie of the Year. Boom, then it's the sophomore slump, what's going to happen there?
"But I've said a million times, I'm not out to prove anybody wrong, or stick it to anybody, but I'm more out to prove to myself I can do this," said Bay, who was in the Expos, Mets and Padres farm systems before landing with Pittsburgh.
Trying to rebuild with younger players after 13 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates want Bay to be a cornerstone of a team built around pitchers Zach Duke and Paul Maholm, shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Jose Castillo. The team promoted seven rookies to the majors last season, and all experienced moderate to excellent success.
"There are a few guys with each team that people identify with, and what I've done the last two years kind of puts you in that position," Bay said. "I'm not going to run out there and say, 'Hey, I'm the face of the Pirates, look at me.' But at the same time I understand there are certain obligations and responsibilities, and I'm not going to shy away from that."
The Canadian-born Bay has a .295 average, 62 homers, 197 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in 312 career games with the Pirates and Padres, for whom he played briefly in 2003 before being traded in August.
Bay also has incentives worth $25,000 for being an All-Star, $100,000 for NL Most Valuable Player, with $75,000 for second place and $50,000 for third place; $50,000 for World Series MVP and $25,000 for a Gold Glove.
His 2009 incentives are based on plate appearances and being an All-Star, an MVP, a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger award winner in previous seasons.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press