It’s official. The 2016 Major League Baseball season is over.
For a few clubs it will be a season to remember. For the San Diego Padres, save a few great moments, it was not the finest.
I believe however, that 2016 will be remembered as the turning point during which the Padres’ strategy towards success finally became apparent. After the 2015 season, into the off-season and through the first half of 2016, the club was reluctant to admit that they were going into a rebuild. The fans were confused by the product on the field.
The grand experiment of 2015, in which the team splurged in acquiring a handful of appealing veteran talent, fell flat on it’s face as the club finished the season 74-88. A few free agents left in the off-season, and a couple of relief pitchers were traded (Craig Kimbrel brought in a nice prospect haul), but much of the 2015 roster stayed intact. Was the front office just going to give it another shot? Apparently so, but by the all-star break the team was at 41-54 and the charade could go on no longer.
James Shields had already been traded at this point, then Fernando Rodney went, then Drew Pomeranz, then Melvin Upton Jr., then Andrew Cashner, and finally to cap it all off, Matt Kemp was traded right before the deadline. In return for the veteran dump, the Padres came away with a nice little smattering of prospects and some serious salary relief. Reality finally set in. The “youth movement” was on and the Padres finally admitted that 2019 would be their target for a winning product. This direction actually makes sense. The farm is now stocked with talent. Not to mention the MLB ready prospects who are already starting to filter onto the field at Petco. The confusion is but a memory and the future does looks bright.
Now there is one other trade that took place in the 2015 off-season that I have not mentioned. On December 8, 2015, the Padres traded infielder Jedd Gyorko, and a large portion of his salary, to the Cardinals for veteran outfielder Jon Jay. Initial reactions were that this seemed to be a pretty lateral move. The Cards wanted infield depth and the Padres wanted to unload Gyorko’s contract. Plus, getting Jon Jay, a capable veteran outfielder, made sense to a Padre team that had just lost Justin Upton to free agency. Not to mention, Jay was a low-commitment option as he headed into a free agency season.
As it turns out, Gyroko had a pretty decent 2016 for himself in St. Louis. He batted .243/.306/.495 and hit 30 home runs. Did we lose the trade? Well, maybe. I always thought that Gyorko had big potential and I still like him, but as a Padre he was an expensive, streaky player, at a position in which they now have a lot of depth. Currently, the Padres have Ryan Schimpf, Cory Spangenberg, and Carlos Asuaje all vying for the starting slot at second base in 2017. Plus, all three are playing on the cheap. So, it may have been tough to see him go, but trading Gyorko does seem to have been for the best.
In my estimation, Jon Jay brought his best to the Padres in 2016. He batted .296/.345/.407 with 24 doubles over 291 plate appearances before taking a wild pitch to the forearm from Gio Gonzalez, causing a fracture and sending him to the DL in late June. He had assumed the lead-off role in the lineup and was impressive there. His 24 doubles were leading the league at that point. Before his injury, Jay was looking like a serious trade candidate, but being sidelined until September kept him with the Padres through the end of the season. He ended up batting .291/.339/.389 with 26 doubles over 374 plate appearances.
On August 25, before he was even off the DL, it was reported that Jon Jay was considering a return to the Padres in 2017.
“I love San Diego, I love what’s going on, I love where the team’s headed. Obviously with free agency, you wait so long to get to this point as a player, you want to see what’s out there. But at the same time, I feel very comfortable here. I do like it a lot here, so this is definitely something my wife and I will discuss when making those decisions”.
So it sounds like he’s open if the team wants him back. But with all of the outfield depth that they have, do they need him?
There is one thing that “The Federalist” does provide which is a crucial element to any successful team. Experience.
He was the starting center fielder for four consecutive National League Championship Series qualifying clubs as a Cardinal (2011−14). He was a World Series champion with the Cardinals in 2011. Between 2011 and 2013, he established an errorless streak as the record for N.L. center fielders at 245 games. Of Jay, manager Andy Green said, “He’s a tremendous leader, and he’s still a great player.” Jay would be the most senior veteran of a very young club house and in my opinion, such a presence is absolutely necessary. Just look at what David Ross brought to the Cubs over the last few seasons.
So, what is his future and does that include another year with the Padres?
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