One year ago, the St. Louis Cardinals made a difficult decision to trade their former two-time minor league Player of the Year, who was then and now a cost-controlled centerfielder in Colby Rasmus.
While the deal delivered much-needed pitching to the Cardinals as they continued on their way toward a World Championship, it also created a full-time job for Jon Jay. The now-27-year-old joined the organization a year and a round after Rasmus, after being selected in the second-round of the 2006 draft.
Jay has been a streaky player in his three partial seasons as a major leaguer, having experienced several exciting highs offensively. They include a 1.017 OPS in May 2011, a mark which may have eased some of the Cardinals potential concern with trading Rasmus.
Jay followed his May 2011 peak with his worst month that season, a .658 mark last June. Since then, Jay did not have a monthly OPS approaching .800 until his promising .958 mark to open this season in April.
After time on the disabled list due to a shoulder injury incurred in a collision with the outfield wall, Jay’s offense had declined until a recent upturn when has collected seven hits in his last three games. The situation led one local columnist to suggest the club should add a right-handed hitting complement to share centerfield with the left-handed hitting Jay.
I had already been thinking about the subject, but to an even greater extreme.
What if the Cardinals repeated their June 2011 action by trading away their young centerfielder in a parallel move to strengthen their pitching?
Why might the Cardinals consider such a move with Jay?
After all, the in-house replacements in centerfield, Skip Schumaker, Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers, are not overly exciting. Still, they might be considered adequate in holding down the fort for awhile. The long-term answer may not be all that far away.
The organization has been grooming its top position player prospect, Oscar Taveras, as a centerfielder. It is unclear whether Taveras can remain at the position over a major league career, but it is clear the Cardinals are aiming him in that direction.
Past concerns with Taveras have been more about his focus and concentration than his considerable talents. Having just turned 20, the left-handed hitter is leading the Texas League in batting average after being named the MVP of their All-Star Game.
Even if Taveras doesn’t make St. Louis this season – which would still have to be considered a long shot to occur – the recent direct-to-St. Louis promotion of his Springfield teammate Trevor Rosenthal serves as a vivid and very fresh reminder. The distance between the two levels is not as great as it once may have appeared.
If the Cardinals are unwilling to deal their top prospects, who might be made available in trade? Losing reserve position players such as Matt Carpenter and Tyler Greene or inconsistent relievers Eduardo Sanchez and Maikel Cleto would hurt the Cardinals less, but it may take more than that to land impact major league talent in return.
Jay could have appeal to several potential suitors. Though aging Ichiro had vacated centerfield prior to his surprising trade to the Yankees, last-place Seattle needs help almost everywhere. San Diego is in the same boat, with two young outfielders in Cameron Maybin and Will Venable suffering through disappointing seasons.
Then there is Miami. What better angle might the Marlins devise in a new attempt to revive fan interest following the opening of their new ballpark than to acquire a hometown favorite, a former University of Miami star in Jay?
Incumbent Marlins centerfielder Emilio Bonifacio steals bases, but offers little else in terms of standout skills. Further, there is a clear opening. With Monday’s trade of Omar Infante, Bonifacio should be moving to second base.
So as the Fish embark on yet another fire sale, who better would fit their needs than a cost-controlled Miami native?
I want to be clear that I have no idea if this will happen. I am only wondering out loud if it could and if so, why and how it might come about.
What do you think?