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Pirates

Pirates talking contract with Bay

Joe Rutter
| Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2005

For putting up some of the best numbers of any National League player in just his second major-league season, Jason Bay could find himself richly rewarded with a multi-year contract.

The Pirates have opened negotiations with Bay on a four-year deal that would eliminate his three seasons of salary arbitration eligibility. The amount of the contract is not known, but based on precedent in the industry, could be worth about $12 million.

Long-term security would be a refreshing change for Bay, who had his contract renewed at $355,000 in spring training after refusing to sign the one-year offer the Pirates made.

"There are still a lot of things that need to be worked out," Bay said Monday, "but it's flattering to have that offer."

Bay followed up his sensational rookie season - a .282 average, 26 homers, 82 RBI - by leading the Pirates in every offensive category and, in many instances, ranking among the NL leaders.

Bay took a .305 batting average, 30 home runs and 90 RBI into the Pirates' game last night against the Houston Astros, and he extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a first-inning single. Among NL players, he ranks second in extra-base hits, third in doubles and runs scored, fifth in total bases, seventh in batting average and ninth in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He also is 20-for-20 in stolen-base attempts.

"I realized something like this could happen, so you go out there, play hard and hope someone notices," said Bay, who turns 27 today. "It's nice to get that reciprocal feeling that they notice what you're doing."

Littlefield extended the offer last Thursday when Bay's agent, Joe Urbon, visited his client in Pittsburgh on the team's day off.

"Jason's a very well-rounded player, and he's performed at a high level," Littlefield said. "We have a great deal of trust in what he's going to be able to do in the future."

The contract would be the largest handed out during the Littlefield regime, eclipsing the three-year, $9 million contract given to third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the 2002 spring training. Kris Benson received the last four-year contract, agreeing to a $13.8 million deal in the 2001 spring.

Neither signing worked out well for the Pirates. Because of a financial crunch in 2003, Littlefield was forced to trade Ramirez, who was due $6 million the next season, to the Chicago Cubs. Benson, because of a spate of injuries, never provided adequate value for his deal.

"It's obvious from our end we've had problems with some of these issues in the past, and they haven't always gone as well as we've liked," Littlefield said. "These are not fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants decisions."

This decision did not go unnoticed in the Pirates clubhouse.

"I think it's a great step, not only for the club, but for Jason," right fielder Craig Wilson said. "He's proven over the last two years what he can do. It lets the fans know that Jason will be here for a while. It's outstanding for him and for us."

A reference point for negotiations could be the contract the Cleveland Indians gave Travis Hafner in spring training. Hafner was signed to a three-year, $7 million contract with an club option for a fourth season that would extend the amount to $11.75 million.

"I'd like to get something done as soon as possible, but we have two weeks left in the season," Bay said. "My goal now is just to finish strong."

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