The Jay Bargain

Jon+Jay+Cincinnati+Reds+v+St+Louis+Cardinals+fYPAzhNFgUflIf Matt Holliday is the whipping boy in Cardinal Nation for being the most expensive position player, Jon Jay is known for being the guy people can’t seem to value correctly. People will bring up their strongest Colby Rasmus defense here when slamming Jay, saying they won’t the home runs that Colby has produced in Toronto and the quality that Jay has put out there since that memorable 2011 trade are useless. Then there is the Peter Bourjos crew. When Bourjos was traded for last winter and Jay was coming off a troublesome 2013 in the field, the same sea of red figured the Jay Era was finished. Opening the season, Bourjos was positioned as the starter and Jay was the 4th guy. Before the middle of the season, Jay had fought his way into more playing time. People will still say Mike Matheny favors Jay over Bourjos, and they aren’t lying. However, the production of Jay in the first half and especially his stronger second half justified the move by Matheny. Jon Jay is a valuable piece and the only reason he should be spoken of in trade talks is due to his resurgent 2014 season. He is an unselfish productive ballplayer who has a lifetime average of .295 and on base percentage of .359.

His defense isn’t great though, right? Well, it’s not horrible. Take away his rough 2013 season and Jay is right around a 0.5 dWAR(defensive wins above replacement). That’s not going to win a gold glove or gather any applause but Jay is an adequate outfielder who can make the occasional great play. His arm isn’t strong neither was Bourjos’ in 2014. Jay isn’t a bad outfielder no matter how you look at it.

Well, he can’t hit in the postseason? In the 2014 postseason, nobody was more consistent than Jay at the plate. He hit .483 in 39 at bats, and he walked three times. He didn’t light it up with the stick, but why has Jay been confused with a power hitter for the past few seasons? That was never his reputation. He gets on base and sets the tables. He is a perfect #2 hitter.

Jay hit .375 off lefties in 2014 and this wasn’t really a new thing. He only hit .220 off them in 2013, but from 2010-12, his average against lefties was right around .295. Jay can hit lefties and righties. That’s a special thing.

It also helps that Jay can turn an inside pitch into a first base pass. Jay was hit 20 times in 2014 and also drew 28 walks. His 78 strikeouts didn’t overwhelm his ability to reach base.

When I look at Jay and his 3.2 million salary in 2014, I can’t find much to criticize. If he gets a raise(and he deserves it) to around 4.5-5 million in 2015, there isn’t a problem. I mean, Cards fans can complain first about John Mozeliak handing a combined 10 million dollars to Mark Ellis and Ty Wiggington the past 2 seasons instead of the 8-10 he will hand Jay for two years of work. People often forget that while Jay’s average and defense slipped in 2013, he still hit 7 home runs and drove in 67 with 151 hits. What can you possibly not like about Jay when it comes to matching salary and production?

As Joe Schwarz of Viva El Birdos pointed out today, it’s a useless argument. Jon Jay is a valuable piece of the equation and the Cards are right to give him a first bite at center field in 2015. They would be crazy not to. Unless another team barks up a very good trade offer, the Cards would be wise to continue riding this Jay production train. It hasn’t steered them wrong to this point. It would be foolish to bet on Bourjos reaching Jay’s offensive production with a full season(they will point out his one productive 2011 season in an argument) or insert a rookie out there with Jay doing so well. For the time being, you stick with what is working. That’s not an opinion. That’s logic supported by stats and facts.

When it comes to the future of Jay here in St. Louis, I say pay the man his money. He’s earned it.

Like what you’ve read? Get more of my instant take right here.

 

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