According to media reports today the St. Louis Cardinals have inked deals with center fielders Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos to avoid arbitration hearings. The deals, which haven’t been announced yet by the club, leave infielder Daniel Descalso as the only pending arbitration case for the Cardinals.
Jay’s deal is reported to be a 1 year, $3.25 million contract that comes in just less than his $3.4 million arbitration estimate from MLB Trade Rumors. Jay, who will turn 29 in March, struggles last year posting a .276 batting average along with a 102 OPS+. His defense also struggled as he went from one of the better rated defenders to one of the NL’s worst in center field. Those struggles likely cost Jay some money in arbitration.
Bourjos’ deal is reported to be a 1 year, $1.2 million contract with an additional $150,000 in plate appearance incentives. Bourjos, who will be 27 in March, is widely expected to be the Cardinals’ starting center fielder in 2014. He is coming off an injury shortened year that saw him hit .274 over just 196 plate appearances. However, he was hitting well over .300 when he broke his wrist in June. He is also regarded as the best defensive center fielder in baseball.
The contracts put the Cardinals at just about $98 million in guaranteed contracts for 11 players next season with a total projected opening day payroll of $105.7 million. That is still down about $11 million from 2013.
The same day signings by Jay and Bourjos create some interesting parallels between the two who will be competing for the starting job in center field this season and likely splitting a great deal of time there too.
With Bourjos expected to be in the starting lineup, that means that Jay is penciled in as the team’s left handed outfielder off the bench. What that means strategically is that I struggle to see the Cardinals carrying both Jay and prospect Oscar Taveras, both left handed outfielders, on the roster during the season.
If Jay gets off to a good start and Taveras is looking for time in St. Louis, it seems like a no brainer that Jay will get moved this year. Entering the 2015 season, he may find himself in a similar situation that David Freese did too. He will potentially begin to make more than his production will be worth to the Cardinals and they have another candidate ready to take his place. It’ll be something to keep an eye on through 2014.
With on Descalso left on the arbitration checklist, I expect the odds will be good for the Cardinals to extend their streak of years without an arbitration hearing to 15.