St. Louis Cardinals: Why the Jon Jay deal works for both sides


Yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals traded OF Jon Jay to the San Diego Padres for Jedd Gyorko and some cash. Who won this deal?

With the trade now complete and official, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres have added to their teams in a different albeit similar way. Both guys have had underwhelming performances of late, and both guys are young and relatively cheap in comparison to the expensive free agent market.

However, what most fans want to know is, who exactly won this deal? This really is a hard thing to come to as a Cardinals’ fan. On one account the Cardinals have gotten better by subtracting from their weak bench and adding some legitimate power.

If you listen to sports radio in the St. Louis area like myself. You probably hear everyone declaring this trade a huge win for the Cardinals, because Jedd Gyorko can hit the home run and Jay cannot. Jay has been ridiculed by fans the past couple years, mostly because Mike Matheny thought he was a starter over guys like Randal Grichuk, Oscar Taveras, and Tommy Pham.

However, if you know me by now (I hope you do), you know that I am a stat head and the stats tell an interesting story about this deal. It is really hard to compare these two players side by side, as they are two totally different players. Gyorko is a middle infielder turned super utility guy with some pop, while a healthy Jay is a high OBP contact guy, who can play a decent center field.

Two statistics I want to show you show that this trade may not be as great as you think, these stats are wRC+ and fWAR both being from Fangraphs. Jay from 2011-2015 has had really good numbers,with his wRC+ in that time being 115, 115, 103, 115, and 57.

When you factor in Jay’s 10.3 fWAR over the same timeframe, it shows that he has been pretty consistent over the past five years for the Cardinals. However, while Gyorko doesn’t have 2011-2012 numbers, his wRC+ of 110, 77, 93 show this may be a bit of a onesided deal, especially when you consider his fWAR of 3.1.

Defensively, there’s even more reason to see that the trade may tip the scales toward the Padres. Gyorko has posted negative UZR numbers at every position he has seen considerable time at and his third base and short stop defense show that he should only be used as a second basemen. Jay on the other hand has a 10.1 UZR at CF in his career. Seems like a lopsided deal, doesn’t it?

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Not exactly, this trade works for both teams here. Jay was at the end of the line in terms of playing time with this team, especially if Jason Heyward returns. While Jay has thrived as a bench player in the past, I think John Mozeliak cut ties at exactly the right time, much like he did with Peter Bourjos and Tony Cruz last week. I don’t want to read too much into this, but I also think that this shows the Cardinals have some confidence in being able to re-sign Heyward.

In his career, Jay has been a guy who has relied on a little luck to get by offensively, as his career BABIP of .336 shows. When the ball isn’t bouncing Jay’s way, it’s clear that he struggles as is evident by this year and his .210 average and .246 BABIP.

While Gyorko may not be the best grab for the Cardinals, it’s good that they got a player who can contribute to the club next year. Gyorko may not be the best defensively, but he can fill in at pretty much every spot on the infield and can be the Cardinals’ cheaper version of Ben Zobrist. The great thing is that if Gyorko doesn’t pan out, Aledmys Diaz can provide the same defensive versatility, with greater offensive consistency. 

Kudos to Mozeliak for not only finding a place for Jay to play everyday but getting something in return as well. Jay will be a valuable piece for the Padres next season as they desperately need a CF, with Wil Myers and his -8.7 UZR and -42.5 UZR/150 patrolling CF for 298.2 innings last season. Myers will likely now become their everyday first basemen. 

Next: The Cardinals and the first base dilemma

Overall, it’s a good deal for both teams and both players. Good job by both teams for coming together on a trade that helps everyone involved.