Padres acquire Jay, send Gyorko to Cards
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- You can check one item off the Padres' offseason wish list, as the team Tuesday traded for outfielder Jon Jay of the Cardinals.
The Padres, seeking a left-handed-hitting outfielder, landed Jay for infielder Jedd Gyorko and $7.5 million in cash considerations.
Jay, 30, can play all three outfield positions but has spent most of his time in the big leagues as a center fielder.
"We looked at it as a chance to get a left-handed bat, has played on some good clubs, we got some good reports as far as character and makeup," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "He's been a good defender as well. We felt like he was a good fit."
The Padres came to the Winter Meetings seeking a number of things, but finding a left-handed-hitting outfielder to help break up their mostly right-handed lineup was one of them.
Preller said the initial conversation with the Cardinals about the deal was born at the General Managers Meetings last month in Florida. It then picked up steam in the last few days in Nashville.
The team ranked 28th in the big leagues last season in team batting average facing right-handed pitchers (.244) and tied for last in on-base percentage (.299).
"We knew last year when we put the team together it was something we would be susceptible to," Preller said of struggles against right-handed pitching. "... It's something we needed to look at."
So where will Jay play?
Preller said Tuesday that Jay will have every chance to win the center-field job, though Melvin Upton Jr. and rookie Travis Jankowski are in the mix as well. There could be a point where Upton, a right-handed hitter, faces lefties.
Jay's addition means the Padres still will look to find a left fielder and, possibly, another left-handed hitter.
"We're still going to consider the best guy and best player we can get for the spot. But we've talked a lot about getting some more balance and this helps this out," Preller said. "This doesn't stop us from going out and getting another outfielder."
Jay, who will make $6.85 million in 2016, will be a free agent after 2016. He's a career .287/.354/.384 hitter in six seasons with the Cardinals. Last season, he was limited to 79 games. He landed on the disabled list in May with tendinitis of his left wrist, the same wrist he had surgery on after the 2014 season.
New Padres bench coach Mark McGwire, who was the Cardinals' hitting coach from 2010-2012, Jay's first three seasons in the big leagues, gave Jay a strong endorsement.
"That means a lot to us," Preller said.
Preller said the team had a hand specialist go over Jay's medical file to make sure the wrist was healthy. Jay told the team he's ready to go.
"My wrist is feeling great. I'm over a year post-surgery. My wrist is feeling great. My body, everything feels great," Jay said.
The Padres believe Jay is primed for a bounce-back year. Between 2010 and 2014, Jay not only had a .755 OPS but had a reputation for being a good defender, a must in the National League West with its many vast outfields.
Jay told reporters Tuesday that while leaving the only organization he's known will be tough, he's excited about joining the Padres.
"There are a lot of positives. When I think about my time in St. Louis, obviously it's tough for me [to leave] because of all the great memories and all the great teams that we've had," he said.
"That's the sad part. But the positive part is I now have a good opportunity in San Diego. Going into the winter, I knew this was a possibility. I knew we had a lot of depth in the outfield. I look at things with a positive outlook."
Gyorko, a homegrown player who was selected by the team in the second round of the 2010 Draft, had a .236/.293/.395 slash line in parts of three seasons with the Padres, hitting 49 home runs.
Gyorko signed a six-year, $35 million deal with the Padres in April 2014, a deal that came on the heels of a promising rookie season. He hit 23 home runs in 2013 and finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year vote.
Gyorko struggled at the outset of this past season and was optioned to the Minor Leagues in June, returning three weeks later. A second baseman by trade, Gyorko played 29 games at shortstop in the second half last season.
Elsewhere Tuesday, Preller called the second day of the Winter Meetings a "pretty busy day," in terms of conversations with agents and teams. He said there was an equal mix of discussion on the trade and free-agent front.