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November 9, 2012

Pebble Hunting

17 Teams That Would Have Won the World Series if Not for Jason Bay

by Sam Miller

Real life:
"Left fielder Jason Bay officially will test the open waters of free agency after declining the Boston Red Sox's initial contract offer, according to an SI.com report. The offer from the Red Sox to Bay was believed to be in the range of four years and $60 million, unidentified sources told SI.com."

***

Hypothetically:
"Left fielder Jason Bay will not test the open waters of free agency after accepting the Boston Red Sox's initial contract offer, according to an SI.com report. The offer from the Red Sox to Bay is believed to be in the range of four years and $60 million, which gosh when you think about it is probably more than he's worth so it makes sense he accepted it." 

***

Red Sox
Instead of signing John Lackey to a huge deal and Mike Cameron to a reasonable one, the Red Sox find themselves limited by the money they’ve committed to Bay, on the edge of the luxury tax. Unable to pay for Lackey (the Yankees sign him instead), they sign Rich Harden to a one-year deal. (The Giants sign Cameron.) Harden doesn't do much and leaves at the end of the season, but a year later, whatever terrible pitcher the Red Sox have instead of Lackey provides the one extra win to make Robert Andino’s Game 162 single irrelevant. The Red Sox win the 2011 Wild Card and, probably, the 2011 World Series.
World Series MVP: Marco Scutaro

Angels
Having signed Jason Bay, the Red Sox don’t pursue Carl Crawford a year later. As a result, the Angels have no problem signing Crawford, and by signing him have no interest in trading for Vernon Wells the same offseason. Crawford disappoints, but Napoli’s 173 OPS+ in 2011 is the highest in Angels history; the 6.3-WARP difference between Mathis and Napoli would have been enough for the Angels to win the Wild Card and, likely, the 2011 World Series.
World Series MVP: Jerome Williams

Marlins
Having not traded for Vernon Wells before the 2011 season, Tony Reagins’ job remains safe for another year, and Jerry Dipoto is never hired by the Angels. Without Dipoto’s touch, the Angels can’t convince C.J. Wilson to sign with them, and the Marlins’ higher offer attracts the lefty. His spectacular first half keeps them from collapsing in June, and rather than falling out of first place the Marlins build a lead heading into the All-Star break. Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, and Anibal Sanchez aren’t traded away; Ryan Dempster is added at the deadline; and the Marlins cruise to the postseason and, probably, the 2012 World Series.
World Series MVP: Edward Mujica

Blue Jays
Finally fed up with Mike Napoli’s offense, Tony Reagins trades the catcher to the Blue Jays after the 2011 season, in exchange for Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays use the savings to win the bidding rights to Yu Darvish. (This wasn’t too hard. As the Angels did not sign Wilson and Pujols this offseason, the Rangers did not feel the urgency to sign Darvish.) The Blue Jays keep Napoli and don’t acquire Jeff Mathis. This somehow adds up to 22 extra wins, and the 2012 World Series.
World Series MVP: Edwin Jackson

Cardinals
With Bay off the market, the Mets use their unused money to sign Matt Holliday, and the Cardinals fill the hole in left field with Allen Craig. Two years later, they have the financial flexibility to give Albert Pujols a few extra million, and that’s enough to cruise through the NLDS, NLCS, and World Series in 2012.
World Series MVP: Stephen Drew

Phillies
Without Holliday and the two runs he would score, the Cardinals lose to the Phillies in Game Four of the 2011 NLDS. The Phillies win the World Series.
World Series MVP: Domonic Brown

Indians
Because they signed Pujols, the Cardinals can’t afford/don’t need Carlos Beltran, so he signs with Cleveland in 2012 instead. The Indians, in first place on June 23, don’t collapse, because Beltran is magic. He hits .357/.440/.714 in the postseason, and the Indians win their first World Series since 1948.
World Series MVP: Carlos Beltran

Nationals
With Wilson landing in Florida, Mark Buehrle takes the second-best offer, from the Nationals. Washington never signs Edwin Jackson. Buehrle starts Game Three of the NLDS, throws eight shutout innings, and the Nationals win 1-0 in 10 innings. There is no Game Five. Washington goes on to win the 2012 World Series.
World Series MVP: Chad Tracy

Yankees
Washington never signs Edwin Jackson, so he accepts the Pirates’ three-year offer. The Pirates don’t need A.J. Burnett, and the Yankees are stuck with him in 2012. Besides bouncing back, Burnett provides plenty of pie-facing to keep New York loose against Detroit. Nobody chokes. The Yankees win the 2012 World Series.
World Series MVP: Alex Rodriguez

Brewers
The Angels, having not fired Tony Reagins and therefore having not acquired Pujols, Wilson, or Chris Iannetta, are far out of the race at the trade deadline in 2012. No other team comes close to offering a Segura-Hellweg-Pena package to Milwaukee, which decides to hold onto Greinke for a draft pick and, perhaps, a miracle August run. As the Brewers surge unexpectedly, they are delighted to have kept him. He pitches them to the postseason and, probably, the 2012 World Series.
World Series MVP: Mat Gamel

Padres
The Giants’ decision to sign Cameron keeps Andres Torres from getting a shot. Without Torres, the Giants win four or five fewer games, and the Padres easily win the NL West instead of losing by a game. And the 2010 World Series!
World Series MVP: Andres Torres

Braves
With Lackey on the Yankees, New York has no need for Javier Vazquez and never trades Melky Cabrera to Atlanta for him. Vazquez, safe from the pressure or whatever in New York, remains excellent and follows up an excellent 2009 season with an excellent 2010 season. Instead of Derek Lowe on short rest, it’s Vazquez who faces the Giants in Game Four of the NLDS. He is superior to Derek Lowe on short rest, and the Braves win. The Braves win the 2010 World Series.
World Series MVP: Brooks Conrad

Mariners
Having signed Crawford, the Angels don’t sign Hideki Matsui for the 2010 season. The Mariners do, which encourages Ken Griffey, Jr. to just retire. No Griffey drama and no Griffey .178 TAv doesn’t make the Mariners contenders or anything, but it keeps them in the race just long enough to avoid the early-July Cliff Lee/Justin Smoak trade with Texas. They ultimately trade him later that month for Matt Kemp. Without Smoak at first base, they sign Prince Fielder before the 2012 season. And that’s when they win the World Series! 
World Series MVP: Ichiro Suzuki

Rays
With the Mariners not trading Cliff Lee to the Rangers, Seattle never gets Josh Lueke. So the John Jaso/Lueke trade never happens, and the Rays keep Jaso instead of a group of catchers who hit .227/.300/.327 in 2012. That upgrade from the Rays catchers (0.0 WARP) to Jaso (3.3) in 2012 closes the three-game deficit that keeps Tampa Bay out of the postseason. World Series!
World Series MVP: B.J. Upton

Royals
Melky Cabrera develops into an All-Star for the Yankees, and the Royals never get their hands on him. This prevents them from trading for Jonathan Sanchez. That’s enough: they win the 2012 World Series!
World Series MVP: Jeremy Guthrie

Dodgers
With the Red Sox never having signed Carl Crawford, they are unable to trade him to the Dodgers. The Dodgers, desperate to spend their money on terrible contracts, look north and convince the Giants to trade Barry Zito to them for prospects. Zito never loses another game. The Dodgers win the 2012 World Series.
World Series MVP: Juan Uribe

Tigers
With Melky Cabrera in the American League (starring for the Yankees) instead of the National League, the AL wins the 2012 All-Star game. The Tigers get home-field advantage in the World Series, which turns out to make all the difference. They win the World Series!
World Series MVP: Don Kelly

Mets
The Mets don’t get stuck with Jason Bay, and they do sign Matt Holliday. They still don't win anything.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  World Series,  Jason Bay,  Alternate History

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