ST. LOUIS — Jon Jay’s pay-as-you-go plan finally closed out this offseason, and the Cardinals rewarded his consistency with a two-year deal worth just short of $11 million. Heading into spring training, Jay is written in as the centerfielder following a .303/.372/.378 2014 and a postseason in which that line jumped to .483/.571/.517.
So what to expect in 2015?
If it goes well
Jay continues right along on offense. His lowest average in five years is .276, his lowest OBP is .344. The difference between his best and worst average is 29 points. If you remove 2012, it’s eight points. He’s the picture of consistency, and 2015 falls right in line with his career line.
The Federalist comes in as the club’s center fielder and remains the primary at the position all season. He gives the Cardinals a .300/.370/.400 line and plays solid defense.
His run totals rise with an improved offense and he scores 70+ times. With a repaired wrist, he finds a little more pop late in the season, doubling 20 times and finishing closer to 10 homers than to zero.
If it doesn’t
It’s hard to imagine an offensive collapse that isn’t spurred by injury, but an ill-timed slip by Jay that coincides with a surge from another outfielder could change the dynamic.
If Jay’s average dips and takes his bankable OBP with it, the Cardinals have two possible answers in the wings. Peter Bourjos- now (reportedly) fully healthy- could improve his numbers enough to shift the balance of time in center in his favor. Jay’s contract and track record may be enough to keep him from a full-time utility role, but a .270/.330/.350 slash would certainly make center field a timeshare rather than a full-time residence.
Randal Grichuk has enough power and intrigue that he could also work his way into the split if Jay’s numbers sag. The 29-year-old spends the year filling in when needed rather than leading the way.
Jay’s advantage is that his worst season is still pretty useful. Barring unprecedented collapse or injury, he’ll always be an asset at any slot in the lineup. He’s not going to become a 20 homer/40 double guy, but he’s not going to be a .250 hitter either.
His value is rooted in his ability to get on base, and as long as that remains consistent he’s got the job. His arm will remain a question mark, but 2014 showed he’s more than capable of running down fly balls to either gap.
Sometimes it’s nice to have the fastest car on the road, but it’s even better to know you have one that starts every time you turn the key. Jay is the human Duralast, and the Cards will have a dependable player in center this season. If Bourjos and Grichuk force an issue with strong play, he could become a trade target -especially since his price tag is now a known quantity- but going into the year there’s no reason to worry about Jay’s production.