Early on Tuesday morning for those of us on the West Coast, the San Diego Padres agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals to send second baseman Jedd Gyorko to the Cards in return for center fielder Jon Jay. The Padres also will send over $7 million to cover some of the remaining cost of the $33 million remaining on Gyorko’s deal. In sum, the Padres will save a total of $20 million over the next four years.
On paper, this deal makes a whole lot of sense for the Padres. The Padres seem intent on freeing up long term salary objections, as evidenced by the trades of Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel, and this trade is just another step in the right direction. Gyorko has fallen out of favor in San Diego over the last two years, and it seemed Preller didn’t want anything to do with the contract that was signed by Gyorko and previous general manager Josh Byrnes.
For 2016, the Padres have traded from an area of surplus to fill an area of need. The Padres split time mostly between Gyorko and Cory Spangenberg last year, and it appears the Padres are ready to roll with Spangenberg full time, barring any more infield additions. While Gyorko is perhaps the slightly better hitter, although those numbers are negligible, Spangenberg has proven himself to be not only a better defensive player, but also a bigger baserunning threat than Gyorko.
In 128 games last season, Jedd Gyorko slashed .247/.297/.397 with a wRC+ of just 93, despite a big second half. By comparison, in 108 games played, Cory Spangenberg slashed .271/.333/.399 with a wRC+ of 105, all better numbers than those displayed by Gyorko. Add in the baserunning acumen and defensive talent of Spangenberg, and the decision to dump Gyorko, and most of the remaining money on his contract, made a lot of sense for the Padres.
In return, the Padres receive Jon Jay, who will likely split playing time with Melvin Upton/Travis Jankowski in left field and center field, depending on what other additions the Padres make before the season begins. Jay is due just over $6 million in the final year of his contract, and likely represents a one year stop gap option while the Padres wait for Manuel Margot to be ready to take the full time job.
Jay had a down year overall for the Cardinals in 2015, slashing .210/.306/.257 in just 89 games played with a wRC+ of a lowly 57. Despite these poor numbers, Jay has proven himself to consistently be a 2-3 WAR player, and a better than average wRC+, with four consecutive seasons at around those numbers from 2011-2014. More importantly to the Padres, Jay has proven himself to be an above average defender in most of the last five seasons, which represents an overall upgrade for the team.
This trade made a lot of sense for both sides, with both teams trading from areas of strength to provide a little more depth from top to bottom. While the Padres get a one year stopgap to help them get to Manuel Margot, the Cardinals get a super utility option that comes with a lot of question marks about what kind of player he will be going forward. Either way, the Padres cleared a significant sum of money off their future payroll, and got an above average center field option going forward.