St. Louis Cardinals: Time to Reunite with Jon Jay

The St. Louis Cardinals have said they would like to find a center fielder this winter.  Could this come through a reunion?

The St. Louis Cardinals sent center fielder Jon Jay to the San Diego Padres after the 2015 season.  This move was made with Randal Grichuk knocking on the door and was made to steal Jedd Gyorko.  The Cardinals were down on Jay and the Padres were semi-down on Gyorko.  The swap helped both players.

Now that the Cardinals are seeking a center fielder, and now that Jay is a free agent coming out of a down year hampered by injury, should the St. Louis Cardinals kick the tires on their former center fielder?  Let’s take a look at this free agent.

Before diving into the statistics, let’s establish what has become Mozeliak’s calling card: the semi-risky, lower dollar, reclamation acquisition.  These words completely describe what a Jon Jay reunion would be for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Let’s also recognize that Jay was a fan favorite during his time with St. Louis and Mozeliak could well win some positive points with this move.

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To the stats… Let’s look at Jay’s offensive numbers over the past years:

Year Age Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 25 STL 105 287 47 86 19 2 4 27 2 4 24 50 .300 .359 .422 .780
2011 26 STL 159 455 56 135 24 2 10 37 6 7 28 81 .297 .344 .424 .768
2012 27 STL 117 443 70 135 22 4 4 40 19 7 34 71 .305 .373 .400 .773
2013 28 STL 157 548 75 151 27 2 7 67 10 5 52 103 .276 .351 .370 .721
2014 29 STL 140 413 52 125 16 3 3 46 6 3 28 78 .303 .372 .378 .750
2015 30 STL 79 210 25 44 5 1 1 10 0 2 19 36 .210 .306 .257 .563
2016 31 SDP 90 347 49 101 26 1 2 26 2 0 19 78 .291 .339 .389 .728
7 Yrs 847 2703 374 777 139 15 31 253 45 28 204 497 .287 .352 .384 .737
162 Game Avg. 162 517 72 149 27 3 6 48 9 5 39 95 .287 .352 .384 .737
STL (6 yrs) 757 2356 325 676 113 14 29 227 43 28 185 419 .287 .354 .384 .738
SDP (1 yr) 90 347 49 101 26 1 2 26 2 0 19 78 .291 .339 .389 .728
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/2/2016.

Notice that his career slash line is .287/.352/.384 and that this is mediocre and won’t shock the socks off anyone.  That said, Jay could well be a great bat at the back end of the lineup.  Be it noted that the St. Louis Cardinals traded Jay in 2015 which was his first injured season wherein he played in only seventy-nine games.

Fast-forward to his 2016 season with the Padres.  Jay, still injured, appeared in only ninety games but increased his batting average .081 points.  He isn’t a remarkably powerful hitter but does manage to put the bat on the ball and this could well help the back end of the Cardinals lineup.

The Cardinals have admitted that they need speed.  2012 and 2013 Jon Jay provided speed and the question could be if this would be repeated.  These questions hinge on his health as it shows that a healthy Jay is both fast and capable at the plate.

Defensively, Jay makes the outs in center when he can reach the ball.  His range was sometimes in question during his time with St. Louis.  That might well be different now with Stephen Piscotty manning right (good range) and if Grichuk were to move to left (great range).  Here’s a deeper look at Jay’s defense over the years:

Year Tm Age Pos G Inn Ch PO A E DP Fld% Rtot Rdrs RF/9 RF/G
2010 STL 25 CF 27 195.0 65 63 2 0 0 1.000 1 -3 3.00 2.41
2011 STL 26 CF 75 570.0 174 167 4 3 3 .983 0 4 2.70 2.28
2012 STL 27 CF 116 993.1 292 291 1 0 0 1.000 8 2 2.65 2.52
2013 STL 28 CF 152 1285.2 340 335 4 1 3 .997 -16 -10 2.37 2.23
2014 STL 29 CF 98 749.0 196 193 2 1 0 .995 8 5 2.34 1.99
2015 STL 30 CF 54 407.1 117 116 1 0 2 1.000 4 1 2.59 2.17
2016 SDP 31 CF 72 599.1 160 155 4 1 1 .994 5 -5 2.39 2.21
7 Seasons CF 594 4799.2 1344 1320 18 6 9 .996 11 -6 2.51 2.25
7 Seasons TOT 771 6074.2 1641 1610 23 8 11 .995 5 -2 2.42 2.12
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/2/2016.

Let me highlight some positive numbers.  Notice the 8 Rtot (number of runs above or below average on plays made) for the 2014 Cardinals in center which dropped to four in 2015 due to injury.  This number through the limited appearances in 2016 in San Diego is on the rise.  Would this continue into 2017 with the battery mates in the Cardinals outfield?

Jay’s error counts in center are of concern.  If the Cardinals kick these tires, this is something that they would desperately need to address.  Grichuk, on the other hand, recorded zero errors in center but his Rtot in center in 2016 was valued at zero.  Yes, zero.  Jay’s Rtot of five would equate to five runs increased due to this change.

There’s another bonus to kicking the tires on Jon Jay: the value saved for another big pick up.  Jay’s last contract was a two-year deal valued at $10.98M.  He was paid $6.85M in 2016.  Could the St. Louis Cardinals use Jay as a stopgap until Harrison Bader is ready?  Could this mean another two-year deal?  Perhaps somewhere in the $10M range?

Jay should be easy to land as he will likely be ranked at the low end of the outfield free agents. He needs a rebound year and the Cardinals need someone ready to step into the center field role while Bader improves and becomes the center fielder of 2018 or 2019.  Jay could well spell this solution.

I’m not pumped about a Jay reunion but can certainly see the value.  If the Cardinals could land Jay and then add some more expensive like Andrew Miller through trade, I would not hate this deal or idea.  Stay with us for more rumors as we dive deeper into Winter.

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