In 2015, general manager A.J. Preller traded for an all-star outfield. Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp brought a sense of respect to the San Diego Padres offense. However their additions didn’t exactly pan out on the baseball field for the Padres.
Lots of power numbers, but defense and consistent hitting was missing the entire season. Ultimately, at the end of the 2015 season, the Padres realized it was a complete disaster, so they let Justin Upton walk away during free agency. Picking up a compensation pick in his place. Meanwhile Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton Jr. and Wil Myers were kept as the probable starters for the 2016 season. That, however, changed.
This offseason, Preller and Padre management considered the idea of Myers at first base full-time because of his previous injury history. That has worked wonders as Myers has really taken to the position and looks completely comfortable. So that left the Padres with Melvin Upton Jr. in left and Matt Kemp in right. All that was missing was a true center fielder. So, that’s when Preller pulled a trade to dump Jedd Gyorko‘s contract on the St. Louis Cardinals and the Padres received true center fielder Jon Jay.
Gyorko is owed $33 million dollars over a four-year span. The Padres gave the Cardinals a $7.5 million dollar buyout, in which, the Padres will give the Cardinals $2.5 million in 2018 and $5 million in 2019. John Jay has only one year left on his contract, in which he is owed $6.86 million for the 2016 season. In reality, Gyorko’s annual salary ($6.85 million) compared to Jay’s is $8.25 million was a increase in payroll for 2016, but the Padres were looking to get out from under Gyorko’s overall deal. It was obvious that Preller was more inclined to pay Jay’s one year contract than owe Gyorko for four more years. Dealing Jay before the deadline would have also netted the Padres some decent prospects. That is all cloudy at best with his recent injury.
New Padres manager, Andy Green chose Jon Jay in the Spring to lead the charge in the middle of the outfield with Upton and Kemp on the corners. Jay has played well defensively in center for the Padres. Hitting-wise, Jay has proven to be a consistent force in the lineup. This year he was on pace to break a few career records from his Cardinal days. So far he already has 24 doubles, 23 RBI, and .296 Batting Average. All these numbers are on pace for near career highs for the outfielder. Then, the nightmare happened. Jay was hit with a 89 MPH fastball in the forearm, on June 19 against Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez. He is now on the D.L. with a 4-6 week time-table for his return. Travis Jankowski will now step in to fill the role vacated by Jay.
Jankowski had his first MLB stint last year in 2015. He debuted last year on August 21 against the St. Louis Cardinals, earning two hits and an RBI. He ended the year with a slash line of .211/.245/.344. Not particularly known for his hitting, Jankowski had a great offensive year last year and showed some real progression. He certainly provides great defense for the Friars when on the field. He only had one error last year in 234 innings. Jankowski has great speed and he continually utilizes it to rob hitters of base hits in the gap. His arm is average, but he can certainly develop more arm strength if he works at it.
This year, in 2016, he has a slash line so far of .250/.355/.325. A little better than last year but not by much. He has had limited playing time to this point and figures to get a decent amount of time in the outfield with Jay’s injury. Jankowski needs to be a better hitter to complement his exceptional fielding. He can truly be a great center fielder and lead off man, but it will take time. He is definitely part of the Padres future plans moving forward. Or perhaps he is just keeping the seat warm for Manuel Margot who is tearing it up in triple-A. Either way the Padres should get a chance in the next few weeks to really determine what Travis Jankowski and his future with the team entail.