NEW YORK (AP)—Jason Bay happily put on his Mets jersey after two team executives fumbled with the buttons, then said there were no issues with his shoulder or desire to play in New York.
With brilliant sunlight pouring through big picture windows in one of Citi Field's exclusive club rooms, the Mets new slugging left fielder saw only the upside for a ballclub that went an embarrassing 70-92 last season after a string of injuries wrecked their first season in their new ballpark.
"I wouldn't've signed the contract if I didn't want to be here or I wasn't happy. This is one of the biggest days of my life," Bay said. "You look at the players on this team; it's a very good team."
The $66 million, four-year deal that returns Bay to the team that had him for several months in 2002 could be worth $80 million including an option for a fifth season. The 2014 option for $17 million would become guaranteed if Bay has 600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 plate appearances in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, something he's done in each of his six full seasons except 2004, when he was NL Rookie of the Year with the Pirates.
Bay passed his physical Monday, no small hurdle for the Mets, who had a roster of All-Stars miss significant time, including Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, J.J. Putz, David Wright and Johan Santana.
Bay and the Mets had reached a tentative deal around Christmas and the wait until it was finalized led to clamoring by fans and talk radio that he didn't really want to come to New York and that there were issues with his shoulder, which was surgically repaired in 2003.
But Mets general manager Omar Minaya said Bay was always the team's priority and the contract took a little longer to finalize because of travel around the holidays.
"When we started this winter, we felt that one of these areas that we needed to improve on we felt that we had to slug more, to be able to have a power hitter, to be able to have a guy that would fit into the middle of our lineup," Minaya said. "We said to the fans be patient but we will eventually get to achieving our goals. I think today, having Jason up here, we achieved one of our goals this winter."
The 31-year-old three-time All-Star set career highs of 36 homers and 119 RBIs last season for the Red Sox, and the Mets hope he will help revive an anemic offense that hit a major league-low 95 homers.