Cardinals sign Jon Jay, social media naysayers erupt

Posted by Scott Wuerz on January 17, 2014 

The Cardinals have signed outfielder Jon Jay to a one-year contract, avoiding salary arbitration, according to mlb.com.

The deal is said to be for $3.25 million.

That, for some reason, set the social media world afire with fans who are outraged that Jay will get so much. Really?

Jay's not the perfect ballplayer. No one ever said he was. But, while he takes some interesting tracks on fly balls and doesn't have the strongest throwing arm, it's not as if he's not a productive player.

For some reason people like to focus on the slump that held down his batting average last season to a career worst .276. (I can think of a lot of MLB players who'd kill to hit .276... Pete Kozma, perhaps) But I think he's not only a nice insurance policy. Jay is a guy who can offer the Redbirds a lot of flexibility both in the field and at the plate.

In the first three season's of Jay's career he was a .300 hitter with a .359 on-base percentage. He picked up more than a few big, clutch hits on the way to the Cardinals' 2011 World Series championship -- an he's done it, up to this point, for peanuts in Major League terms.

Jay made $1.4 million, combined, from 2010 through 2013. That's a lot of bang for the buck.

When it gets down to it, $3.25 million isn't that much for a Major League player. Not even a bench jockey. In 2013, the average MLB paycheck was $3.2 million. And that will surely go up before the 2014 season starts.

Meanwhile, nearly half the players on the Cardinals roster could make less than $1 million in 2014. According to Cot's baseball contracts, the team's payroll will decrease from about $115 million last season to $108 million this year -- even with projected arbitration increases for Jay, Daniel Descalso and Peter Bourjos. Why are fans so worried about the team's profit margin over the product on the field? Leave that up to the DeWitts who set the budget and, obviously, feel that Jay fits within it.

On the field, let's remember that Bourjos has been injury prone throughout his career and that top prospect Oscar Tavares had a season-ending ankle injury that could make him a bad candidate to play centerfield. The Cardinals need to have a guy on the roster who could play there every day if Bourjos is hurt again.

Regardless of what some people think about Jay's play, the Cardinals have won a World Series and two pennant in his three years as a starter. And they came within a game of a third pennant in the other season.

Is Jay the best player on the planet? No. But is he worth $3.25 million in a one-year, no strings attached deal? Obviously. Why? Because the people who are lauded across the baseball universe for their talents to judge talent and stock the farm system with productive players say he is. Why shouldn't fans trust them on this occasion?

The worst case scenario with this contract is the best case scenario for the Cardinals. If Bourjos blossoms into the next Willie Mays (or at least the next Jim Edmonds) the Cardinals would happily bench Jay to let him play every day and pay the freight with a smile on the owners' faces. But if Bourjos, who in his best season hit two points less than Jay did in his career worst and who is the owner of a .306 career on-base percentage, can't hit well enough to start the Birds will be awful glad to be able to turn to Jay.

It was a no-brainer to sign Jay because he could be a valuable part of this team. What makes no sense is to just give away an asset by letting him walk away while he's still under team control.

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