Cardinals add Gyorko, solidify middle infield

John Mozeliak pulled off his first move of the winter meetings in typical John Mozeliak style. All was quiet, until it happened. That move would be adding infielder Jedd Gyorko and cash from the San Diego Padres in exchange for outfielder Jon Jay. And at first glance, it seems like a great deal for the Cardinals.

Middle infield depth was something that Mozeliak spoke of needing to find this offseason to help handle the duties at second base and shortstop. Both Kolten Wong and Jhonny Peralta saw their usage skyrocket this season as a result of the struggling offense and injury plagued roster. As a result, their performances slipped heavily in the second half of the season.

Finding a way to alleviate that potential issue was a top priority for the organization.

Enter Jedd Gyorko.

Gyorko, 27, hit .247 last season with 16 home runs and a 94 OPS+ in spacious Petco Park. He is under his current contract through the 2019 season and has a $13 million option for 2020. It is being reported that the Cardinals will receive $7.5 million from the Padres to help cover the remainder of Gyorko’s contract. Regardless of who pays, Gyorko is due a minimum of $33 million over the next four seasons.

On the surface, 4 years at $25 million might seem excessive for a utility infielder, but he isn’t that far removed from being a top-100 prospect. It’s a worthwhile gamble for a player just three seasons into his Major League career.

Gyorko hit markedly better on the road last season, going .262/.319/.410 with 7 home runs in 62 games. Getting out of Petco Park may add to his overall offensive performance.

He’s appeared at second base the most through his career, but has also played quite a bit of third base as well. He has some time at shortstop, as well as an inning at first base under his belt.

He should immediately slide in as the backup at third base and shortstop as well as have platoon value at second base alongside Kolten Wong. The right handed hitting Gyorko hit .282/.348/.445 against left handed pitching last season while Wong hit just .229/.275/.277. A vast improvement.

In exchange, the Cardinals sent outfielder Jon Jay tot he Padres. San Diego is a popular destination for ex-Cardinals outfielders. Ray Lankford. Jim Edmonds. Ryan Ludwick. And now Jon Jay.

Jay’s single happy hitting style might actually play well in Petco’s open spaces. Being a year removed from the wrist surgery that cost him most of his 2015 season and his spot in the Cardinals’ future, should help return Jay to that career .295 hitter he was before the surgery.

For the Cardinals, Jay was set to be no better than the fourth outfielder behind Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty. And that’s even before you talk about bringing back Jason Heyward. At just over $6 million, that’s a steep price for the role Jay was set to fill.

That’s ultimately what I like the most about this deal. The Cardinals acquired something they needed, middle infield depth, for a spare part. That’s not meant as a slight towards Jay either. Just the reality of the situation where there were more talented outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart and hopes that they’ll add another.