A relaxed and seemingly robust Jason Bay made such a positive impression Monday in his Seattle media unveiling, it was hard not to imagine a best-case scenario in his quest for a career revival.
Bay is a perfect reclamation candidate. He’s highly motivated. He’s landed in what should be a comfortable environment. He has a variety of possible explanations for his three-year decline, including two concussions.
What Bay can explain are flashes of his former greatness that emerged, tantalizingly, over the past three years, only to disappear just as suddenly.
“If I had gone months without any signs of life, it would have been, ‘OK, this isn’t working,’ ” he said. “All of a sudden, it was like, it’s there. We just have to get to a point it’s there consistently.”
Yet the hopes and dreams of the Mariners, and especially their fans, are not centered on a 34-year-old outfielder who hit .165 last year. Bay represents, if all works out for the best, a bonus prize, an unexpected gift – the sort of serendipity that all clubs need in a winning season.
The Mariners, by all accounts, have been working all winter toward landing a bigger prize. But right now, he and utility man Robert Andino represent the only new blood. And with big-ticket items like Zack Greinke, Mike Napoli, B.J. Upton and Wil Myers flying off the shelf, it just adds to the frustration. And the impatience.
Count Jack Zduriencik among those who wish something major could get done more quickly. But the Mariners general manager also sees the big picture, and realizes that many prizes are still unclaimed, including the three players the Mariners were most closely linked to in at the winter meetings in Nashville: free agents Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.
“It isn’t easy being patient, quite honestly,” Zduriencik said Monday. “You realize this is a process agents go through, players go through, or if you’re dealing with another club, that they go through.”
Manager Eric Wedge said: “I don’t think we’re done. Jack has a lot of irons in the fire. … We’ll see. We have a lot of time left.”
Intellectually, that’s true, of course. A team doesn’t have to be built in December. It has to be ready for Opening Day. But, in the meantime, Mariners fans continue to hunger for that high-impact guy.
Bay is a good, solid signing, the kind of low-risk, high-reward move that the Mariners should be making. But the search continues.