As first reported by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales, the Cubs have agreed to terms with Jon Jay on a one-year, $8 million deal for the coming season. Gonzales also theorized that Jay will serve as a platoon partner with Albert Almora, a role Theo Epstein had stated recently was on the Cubs’ offseason wish list.
Cubs fans are most familiar with the 31-year-old Jay as a member of the Cardinals, the team that drafted him back in 2006. He debuted with St. Louis in 2010 and went on to compile a .295/.359/.396 slash line with a 112 wRC+ (12% better than the average hitter) through the 2014 season. Hampered by a wrist surgery and subsequent ailments, however, Jay’s 2015 was a bust (.210/.306/.257).
In December of that year, he was traded to San Diego in the Jedd Gyorko deal and ended up having a solid, if far from spectacular, season. Jay’s production isn’t going to turn any heads and he is coming off of consecutive short seasons (79 and 90 games), which is why the Cubs were able to pick him up on a relatively cheap deal.
Jon Jay (left) and Coco Crisp (switch-hitter) could possibly fill that role, though the latter’s going to have to come down significantly on the $11 million he made last season. He’s no spring chicken, either, having just turned 37 during the World Series. If Jay is comfortable with a deal in the $6-8 million AAV range, he could serve as a pretty solid backup. While his 2015 was one to forget, the former Cardinal and Padre has averaged a .287/.352/.384 slash and has been a perfectly mediocre defensive player (0.0 UZR, -1 DRS) in seven big league seasons.
If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’ve got to massage my shoulder after patting myself on the back for that one. This may come as a shock, but I’m not right often enough to have those muscles sufficiently limbered for such strenuous congratulatory gestures. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Jon Jay and the Cubs.
In addition to providing them with the lefty-hitting outfielder they’d been seeking, this move is basically the death knell for any hopes of the Cubs re-signing Fowler. I mean, unless they’re working a deal to move Almora for pitching. While it wouldn’t be the first time they had to swing a deal after unexpectedly bringing Dex back, the most likely scenario at this point is that Almora opens the season in center.
This signing isn’t one that’s going to put the Cubs back over the top, but it’s a good one in terms of depth (he actually hits LHP just as well as RHP, so he can fill in as an everyday OF if need be) and clubhouse chemistry. Okay, I’m making a bit of an assumption on the chemistry thing. I just figure that, having spent a decade learning how to do things the right way in St. Louis, Jay will likely fit right in with his new teammates now that he’s on the right side of the rivalry.