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.
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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:
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:
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.