The Padres’ plans for 2016 came into clearer focus today, as general manager A.J. Prefer traded second baseman Jedd Gyorko to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Jon Jay.
San Diego also included cash in the deal, as Gyorko is signed for the next four years. He will be owed $4 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017, and $13 million in 2018 and 2019 (with a $1 million buyout option for 2019).
2015 was on off-year for Jay, 30, as he played in 72 games and batted a mere .210. But from 2010-13, he slashed .295/.359/.396 as a semi-regular. Jay bats left-handed, but hits left-handed pitching (.279 career) almost as well as right-handers (.289).
On the down side, he doesn’t have a lot of speed (43 steals over five seasons) or power (29 career home runs), and his defense is considered average. But with his high average and OBP (career .354), he projects as a solid number two batter in the lineup.
After three seasons in the majors, second baseman Gyorko has not yet lived up to expectations. After hitting 23 home runs and slashing .249/.301/.444 in his 2013 rookie season, he suffered the sophomore jinx in 2014, batting .210. He was sent down to the minors in early 2015, but rebounded nicely with 11 home runs in August and September.
He also made 28 starts at shortstop.
The Padres may have been concerned that he could be nothing more than a platoon player: he slashed .282/.358/.445 against lefties, versus .235/.275/.379 against righties in 2016.
What His Means for the Padres
This deal does three things for San Diego:
First, even while they sent cash to St. Louis, this trade nonetheless helps the Padres to shed some payroll, thus paving the way for other team needs to be filled.
Second, Jay likely projects to be the primary starting left fielder, which was one of their most pressing needs heading into the off-season. Long-term, the San Diego front office wants to see prospect Hunter Renfroe in left field, but he probably won’t be ready until at least after the All-Star break (Jay will be a free agent at the end of the season). So for now, Jay fills in the gap.
As noted above, Jay also brings balance to the Padres’ right-handed-heavy lineup. While not flashy, he can play serviceable defense and be a good on-base guy (two areas where the 2015 Padres suffered greatly).
Third, the Gyorko trade brings some clarity to Preller’s plans for the infield. Barring any other moves, Corey Spangenburg figures to start at second base, and Yongervis Solarte at third base.
Spangenburg, 25, was the primary second baseman after the All-Star break, making 67 starts there for the season. He finished the season strong (.834 OPS and .373 OBP in the second half) to end 2016 with a .271/.333/.399 triple slash, with a 2.1 WAR.
Solarte, 27, batted .270 with a .748 OPS in 152 games, including 33 doubles and 14 home runs and a 2.1 WAR.
While Preller may be interested in upgrading at either position (most likely third base), the Padres could enter 2016 with these positions filled by men who will provide decent play.
But as with all things Preller, don’t hold your breath.