Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Jay's Value


This past spring, I wrote a post (you can find it here) attempting to defend Jon Jay as a solid center fielder. I wasn’t attempting to suggest that he was the best in the league, but that he was a middle of the road guy who we’re paying roughly 500 grand. He’s an acceptable player and he comes very cheaply.

In an attempt to disprove me, Jon Jay spent the first four months of the season playing baseball about as well as I do. He crawled to a .253 batting average, well below his .300 career mark, and generally disappointed everyone.

Since then, however, Jay has hit very well, posting a .351 batting average and streaking down the stretch.

Surprisingly enough, he has the second most RBIs among National League center fielders behind only Andrew McCutchen. But I don’t want to deal with counting stats today.

Speaking sabermetrically, his 1.2 wins above replacement puts him at the lower end of MLB’s center fielders. Here’s the chart, courtesy of Fangraphs and me:

Center Fielder fWAR
Mike Trout 8.6
Andrew McCutchen 6.2
Carlos Gomez 5.8
Jacoby Ellsbury 4.9
Colby Rasmus 4.1
Shin-Soo Choo 3.5
Adam Jones 3.3
Gerrardo Parra 3
Desmond Jennings 2.8
Austin Jackson 2.6
Dexter Fowler 2.5
Brett Gardner 2.2
Andre Ethier 2.1
Alejandro De Aza 2
Michael Bourn 1.8
Coco Crisp 1.8
Gregor Blanco 1.7
Denard Span 1.5
Jon Jay 1.2
Drew Stubbs 1.1

As you can see, Jay ranks right down there at the bottom of the list. Should he stay hot, he may improve as the season finishes, but he’s not going to be anywhere near the top of the list. So why do I think that Jay is worth while as a starting center fielder? Here’s another graph: 

Center Fielder fWAR 2013 Salary Cost per Win
Mike Trout 8.6 $510,000.00 $59,302.32
Desmond Jennings 2.8 $501,800.00 $179,214.29
Jon Jay 1.2 $524,000.00 $436,666.67
Andrew McCutchen 6.2 $4,500,000.00 $725,806.45
Carlos Gomez 5.8 $4,300,000.00 $741,379.31
Gerardo Parra 3 $2,350,000.00 $783,333.33
Gregor Blanco 1.7 $1,350,000.00 $794,117.65
Alejandro De Aza 2 $2,075,000.00 $1,037,500.00
Colby Rasmus 4.1 $4,675,000.00 $1,140,243.90
Brett Gardner 2.2 $2,850,000.00 $1,295,454.55
Austin Jackson 2.6 $3,500,000.00 $1,346,153.85
Dexter Fowler 2.5 $4,250,000.00 $1,700,000.00
Jacoby Ellsbury 4.9 $9,000,000.00 $1,836,734.69
Shin-Soo Choo 3.5 $7,375,000.00 $2,107,142.86
Drew Stubbs 1.1 $2,825,000.00 $2,568,181.82
Adam Jones 3.3 $8,500,000.00 $2,575,757.58
Denard Span 1.5 $4,750,000.00 $3,166,666.67
Michael Bourn 1.8 $7,000,000.00 $3,888,888.89
Coco Crisp 1.8 $7,000,000.00 $3,888,888.89
Andre Ethier 2.1 $13,500,000.00 $6,428,571.43

As you can see, Jay ranks at the bottom of fWAR, but ranks right up there at the top as far as value goes. In fact, since the absurd Mike Trout and Desmond Jennings are both AL players, Jay is the most cost-effective center fielder in the National League. The Cardinals are paying a paltry 436,000 dollars for each win from Jay.

I understand, of course, that paying an extra 300,000 per win is certainly worthwhile if you’re getting an extra five wins from a player, but some of the most competitive players, such as McCutchen and Gomez, have pretty big jumps in annual salary after this year, meaning that their cost effectiveness is set to drop next year, and the following years.

Basically, Jay’s stats may not be (aren’t) the greatest in the league, but before you start replacing him, ask yourself who you’d rather have? Because dollar for dollar, Jay is one of the best in the league.

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  • T Lace

    How’d I know to expect a Jon Jay post around here sooner or later…

    I’m not sure if Jay is on the “immediately sell” list – the question is whether we give him the boot for Taveras or not next season. He does incredibly well for what we pay him, the point of your article stands. I guess I just question keeping him above Os for longer than the 2013 duration.

    • Ovadia

      Which leads to the question (much bigger now that Taveras won’t be coming up at the end of this season) of how well Oscar can handle the pros, and whether or not he can play center. Every scout I’ve read pegs him as a corner outfielder.

      Now, if we want to go into pipe dreams (which we will, and you can expect an article on it soon), I would love to see a man named Jacoby Ellsbury in CF. He’s a free agent this year, and you could let Beltran walk to make room for him (allowing either Taveras to take right, or [should he be unable] Allen Craig [moving Adams to permanent starter at first base]).

      Nonetheless, you’re point is valid, and while I don’t think that Jay is “weak” in center, per se, I do think that it’s the second biggest hole in the Cardinals lineup, both offensively and defensively. That’s why you’ll get a good article about what possible center fielders the Cardinals could pursue in the off season.