On June 30, Jedd Gyorko played his first game after being recalled to the majors. He was sent down to fix his swing after a pitiful first couple months in 2015. The Padre infielder played well down the stretch having three solid months in a row.
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On December 8, Gyorko was officially sent to the St. Louis Cardinals accompanied by anywhere from $6.5 to $7.5 million depending on the source for centerfielder John Jay. So either the Padres gave up on a once-promising prospect heading into his age 27 season or just dumped off an expensive contract for a good outfielder.
Let’s split this up and look at first the pessimistic and then the optimistic side.
The Pessimistic Side
Gyorko hit .262/.303/.430/.733 after being recalled to the majors. He had been sent down to fix his swing after trying to adjust to Major League pitching before his second season with the Padres. Upon coming back to San Diego, Gyorko showed signs of the player he was in his 2013 rookie season. If that adjustment was enough to get him back on track, then the Padres dumped a highly-touted hitter just entering his prime years. Gyorko’s contract was such that he would have earned $33 million through 2019 (his age 31 season) with a team option of $13 million for 2020.
With Mark McGwire as the new bench coach, Gyorko could very well have learned a great deal as a hitter and become the player he was scouted to be.
On the receiving end, the Padres now add John Jay to the roster. Jay is set to make $6.85 million in 2016. He played in only 79 games last year due to a wrist problem that cost him disabled list time and eventually had his job taken from him. In 2015, the former-Cardinal hit .210/.306/.257/.563 with a measly 56 OPS+. He will turn 31 during Spring Training.
The Padres also sent around $7 million in a deal in which they will receive a grand total of one year of guaranteed control over the player in return.
The Optimistic Side
General Manager A.J. Preller took something he had an overstock on (second/third base) and used it to fill a hole in the outfield. Gyorko has yet to show that he can live up to the potential he was said to have when he was climbing the minors. At no point in his professional career has he proven that he can draw enough walks to have an on-base percentage above the league average if even that high. On a Padre team in a greater need for guys who get on base than players with a little power, Gyorko was an obvious player to trade.
Gyorko would have cost the Padres an average of $8.25 million per year over the next four years. Instead he will cost an average less than $2 million. The Padres also traded him before his salary would have gotten high enough annually to where they would have had to eat much more money in another potential trade.
Jay’s 2015 season was out of the norm for him. He is consistently a high-on-base low-power hitter who has a career slashline of .287/.354/.384/.738 and an OPS+ of 104. In four of Jay’s seasons, he hit for an OPS+ of over 110 – quite respectable. Last year was a bit of an aberration as he had never been a below average offensive player before.
U-T San Diego’s Dennis Lin reports that the Padres will have Jay play centerfield rather than in left. Jay has good defensive metrics – again quite consistent. He has slightly above average range and saves his clubs a couple runs per year above the average centerfielder. What an improvement that will be from Wil Myers.
In left, the options, as of now, are Melvin Upton Jr. and prospects like Rymer Liriano, Hunter Renfroe, and Alex Dickerson. Travis Jankowski being a backup for centerfield. First off, the fact that the Padres won’t have to rely on a prospect is great. When one proves he is ready for The Show, then he can take over. But no rush. Having Upton – a true centerfielder – in left might compensate for the defensive blackhole that is Matt Kemp in right field.
Andy Green’s lineup looks a little something like:
CF John Jay
2B Cory Spangenberg
1B Wil Myers
RF Matt Kemp
3B Yangervis Solarte
LF Melvin Upton Jr.