As you’ve probably heard by now, Jon Jay is headed to the Cubs. What does this mean for the NL Central race next season?
First off, if recent trends continue, Jon Jay will struggle next season. What trends do I speak of? Well, since 2012, Jay has performed significantly better in even seasons (like the Giants). In even seasons he has batted an even .300. In odd years (albeit just 2013 and 2015), he has batted .257. This likely proves nothing, but it is an interesting trend, one that Giants fans would latch onto quickly.
Who is Jon Jay as a player? For the Cardinals, after taking over the centerfield role from Colby Rasmus, Jay quickly became one of the team’s top contact hitters, with a batting average near .300 each of his first three seasons. He is a mediocre fielder, with decent range and the ability to make big plays, but his subpar arm definitely hurts him in that department. The Cubs definitely know what they’re getting, a good player whose talents lie somewhere between that of a regular starter and a benchwarmer.
In the grand scheme of things, it appears that the Cubs have given up on their attempts to resign Dexter Fowler. By signing Jay, Fowler loses a potential suitor. We all know that the Cardinals are looking for a defensive upgrade in centerfield, so this signing might actually be a good thing for the Cards.
Jon Jay definitely rode some highs and lows in St. Louis, but many fans definitely took to liking him, a homegrown talent that initially outperformed expectations. In any respect, he was initially an improvement over Colby Rasmus, and garnered fan support, enough to make this deal hurt a little.
So what should we expect from Jay next season? Look for him to split time with Albert Almora Jr in centerfield, as Almora grows as a player. Jay only signed a one year deal, and I find it unlikely he stays in Chicago longer than that.
I expect him to hit around .280, providing solid contact likely at the bottom of the order, although with success he could become the Cubs’ new leadoff man. His defense will likely not improve, but he will play error-free ball with players running on him.
Jay is a solid player, not a superstar, yet somebody who has earned his time in the Major Leagues. Early reports indicate that he is hoped to provide a form of replacement for Fowler and Ross, although I struggle to see the comparison to David Ross. A veteran presence? Jay is only 31 years old, and he definitely does not catch.
In any regard, the Cubs are a better team with Jay than without him. The Cubs have accomplished one of their offseason goals, providing insurance should Almora develop more slowly than they would like, and now it is time for the Cardinals to join them. The Cardinals already filled Duke’s role with Cecil, and now it is time to improve the outfield defense, whether that person is Dexter Fowler or not. It will be interesting to see two Cardinals outfielders from 2015 now playing together in Chicago, they really do love signing former Cardinals.
The Cubs have filled a need, and the Cardinals should do the same soon. That centerfield upgrade did just get a little easier though.
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