The Cubs have officially made their first big move of the off-season (excluding minor waiver claims and such) by signing a man with two first names. Here's hoping that the signing of Jon Jay works out as well as the discovery of a certain NASCAR driver with two first names, as seen above. I mean, I know he's not real and all, but anytime I can cram a reference to one of my favorite movies, I'm going to take the bait.
Getting back on track, luckily I had a card of this brand new Cub sitting in my trade stacks, queued up and ready to slide right into my CATRC binder. Although, I was kind of surprised I only had one:
I normally have a penchant for pulling cards of Chicago's biggest rival.
The Cubs have inked Jon Jay to a one-year, eight million dollar deal, despite already dealing with a glut of outfielders: Heyward, Schwarber, Zobrist, Almora, Soler, Szczur. With that in mind, the centerfielder's acquisition all but rules out the return of spark plug Dexter Fowler, unless a few more big, unforeseen moves lie ahead. That said, as we Cubs fans learned last spring, with Dex, anything can happen.
As for Jay himself, he's a lefty bat that's good for an above average batting average, decent OBP, few strikeouts and almost no power. He's also widely considered to be one of the top defensive outfielders in the National League. On the down side, he's coming off of a couple of down years; but this was mostly due to injuries to his wrist in 2015 with the Cards and a broken right forearm in his lone year for the Padres.
I really thought I had this one.
Prior to the plunking that took out his forearm last June, Jay had been putting together a solid campaign, leading the league in extra base hits and the Padres with 80 hits, all with a .299 batting mark.
Jay provides a cheap, low-risk insurance policy and could either become a decent starter in center or a top-notch fourth outfielder. Plus, with Jay, Albert Almora and Jason Heyward, the Cubs outfield defense as the potential to be phenomenal. The biggest downside is that the move likely signals the end of the Dexter Fowler era; however, one must remember that Jay will not be a direct replacement. Rather, he serves as an upgrade from Chris Coghlan, who is now a free agent.
Jay does everything that pseudo-starter Coghlan brought to the table, except that he also provides excellent defense at all three outfield positions (in fact, he's tied with Jacoby Ellsbury in fielding percentage, .995, by active players) and, specifically, is a capable center fielder.
Taking all of that into consideration, the motivation for the Cubs' signing of Jay appears to be as a contingency plan or platoon partner for would-be-centerfielder Albert Almora, something Coghlan would not have been able to handle.
The platoon naturally comes to mind for these two since they both bat from opposite sides of the plate. With that stated, neither player shows significant platoon splits and each can seemingly handle opposite-handed hurlers. However, if Theo and Co. don't feel as though Albert is quite ready to take on the role of a full-time starter at the Major League level (he's only played 47 games at AAA), the platoon could still be on the table. Otherwise, should Albert stumble, Jon Jay will be right there to take over.
For his part, Mr. Almora doesn't appear to be miffed at all with this development:
Rather, Albert seems quite excited to have a fellow Miamian on the roster. I mean, look at all the exclamation points and emojis. Good to see.
Furthermore, "The Federalist" brings a strong nickname game to the Chicago Cubs roster and that is one intangible that simply cannot be ignored. Jay earned this moniker due to the fact that he shares him name with one of our founding fathers, though it's spelled slightly different:
John Jay (with an "h") was a signatory of the Treaty of Paris, President of the Continental Congress, a Governor of New York and the first Chief Justice of the United States. Additionally, he authored five of the Federalist Papers, which helped lead to the adoption of our Constitution and, correspondingly, served as a leader in the Federalist political party.
Quite the highbrow nickname, eh?
All things considered, I'm very much in favor of this move and think Jon Jay will perform rather well in a Cubs uniform, provided that he's able to stay healthy in 2017. He's not exactly a marquee name, but he'll make for a useful spare part/part-time starter on a team that really doesn't need anything more than tinkering and tweaking. After all, they did win the World Series last season! 😀😀😀
Welcome to Chicago, Jon Jay!