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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals, Jay Running Out of Contract Time

This year, 196 Major League Baseball players who have accrued between slightly less than three years of service and six years were eligible for the arbitration process. Some came to terms quickly during the off-season. Most of the remaining eligibles settled on an amount with their clubs when the two sides were formally required to exchange their respective offers on a one-year contract on January 16th.

Two and a half weeks later, just 35 of the original 196 do not yet have agreements in place, reports MLB Trade Rumors. The 35 includes one member of the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Jon Jay.

The other four eligible Cardinals who have settled include pitchers Lance Lynn and Jordan Walden, both on multi-year deals. Outfielder Peter Bourjos and catcher Tony Cruz came to terms on one-year contracts.

That leaves Jay. The Cardinals have offered $4.1 million, while the player wants $5 million in salary for the upcoming season. One would expect them to meet in the middle and shake hands, but that has not occurred to date.

The delay is in direct contrast to last year, Jay’s first year eligible. Even before the formal mid-January exchange date, he and the club came to an agreement at $3.25 million for 2014.

With the 2015 calendar having been flipped to February, time to make a deal is running out. The next impending event is coming soon and will close the matter one way or the other. Arbitration hearings are being scheduled between now and February 21st. This year, those meetings are being held in Phoenix, requiring cross-country travel for Florida-based teams.

If it gets to that point, the arbiters will listen to both sides’ arguments and select one of the submitted salary amounts or the other. As one might expect, the process can become contentious as the team’s motivation is to minimize the player’s accomplishments.

While the Cardinals have officially not gone to a formal hearing with a player since 1999, they have come very close several times since. Most notable were Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick in 2009.

In Ankiel’s case, the parties had already traveled to Arizona and ended up settling just hours before the scheduled hearing. Ludwick and the Cards came to terms the day before their appointment with the arbiters, scheduled five days after Ankiel. More recently, the Cardinals settled with David Freese on February 8, 2013.

There is no special reason to believe Jay and the club will not come to terms before having to argue their case formally. Then again, there must be some explanation for the delay.

If the outfielder is the one digging in his heels, one could guess why. One year ago, it appeared that Bourjos was being brought in to take his job in centerfield. That did not happen, as Jay put together a solid 2014.

Though Jay’s starting spot seems more secure than it was last spring, Bourjos has apparently resolved his nagging physical problems and will be back with St. Louis to try again.

Jay cannot become a free agent until after the 2016 season, so could go through this process again next winter, unless a multi-year deal is agreed-to now. Given the current delay, that seems unlikely, though not impossible.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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43 Responses to “Cardinals, Jay Running Out of Contract Time”

  1. crdswmn says:

    If the Cardinals do a multi year deal, then I want them to trade Bourjos. He deserves better than continuing to play second fiddle to BABIP man. I admit that is not the smartest move, but as a Bourjos fan who thinks he is a better overall player than Jay anyway, I am asserting my right to be situationally obtuse.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I may be reading it wrong, but my take is that if they can’t even get a one-year contract done when they are less than a million apart, the odds of seeing eye-to-eye on a multi-year deal seem very low. Frankly, if I was the Cardinals, I would want to go year-to-year with Jay.

      At this point, I see no benefit in trading either.

      • crdswmn says:

        There isn’t any particular benefit to trading either, other than not having Jay around unblocks Bourjos from playing regularly. But that is my situationally obtuse fan self talking, not my rational, realistic self. Though wanting to see if Bourjos can hit better post-surgery only makes sense if Matheny is going to play him enough. Which I think is doubtful, and pretty much a certainty if Mozeliak signs Jay to a multi year deal. That will be a sign to Matheny to play Bourjos even less than last season.

        Bourjos hasn’t played a full season since 2011, when he was a 4 WAR player. Injury and the whims of 2 managers has kept him down. I would like to see him get a full season again somewhere, if for no other reason than to see if he can replicate, or come close to his 2011 season. He isn’t going to get that opportunity with the Cardinals.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Even putting contracts aside, I do not see CF as as cut and dried as you. Injuries, slumps or substantially greater success by one player early could change the dynamics.

          • crdswmn says:

            Injuries, yes. Slumps? With Matheny? I give you Allen Craig as Exhibit A.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Different circumstances. Craig had a large multi-year contract plus there was not someone as closely interchangeable as Bourjos available.

              • crdswmn says:

                With Oscar Taveras on the roster for the entire month of July, Matheny continued to play Craig the vast majority of the time, even after 3 full months of failure. As I recall, there was an interview with Matheny where he basically said he had no intention of benching Craig, as he believed Craig would eventually come out of it. It took a trade of Craig to stop the madness.

                I have no confidence that a Jay slump would cause Matheny to stop playing him. Jay did “slump” for a time in 2014, during the last half of June through the entire month of July, Jay hit .250 with a .303 OBP, yet he started all but 8 of those games. I don’t believe Craig’s contract status had anything to do with why Matheny continued to play him and I don’t think Matheny would bench Jay for the same reason he wouldn’t bench Craig.

  2. Bw52 says:

    Just trade his ragarm non-basestealing banjo hitting poor defense somewhere else.That`s my hope.And take Jaime Garcia with you.

  3. blingboy says:

    I think Jay would win an arb case. If it is settled, I predict it will be closer to his number rather than the middle.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    The Birds are sitting pretty to have both Jay and Bourjos. Both had operations after last season and should be feeling frisky for 2015.

  5. Brian Walton says:

    Danny Valencia beat the Jays yesterday. Two more cases were heard, but not announced – Neil Walker (Pit) and Jarrod Parker (Oak). So, four are done with 20 more to go, including Jay.

    Hearings are scheduled through 2/20. The reason the schedule is not announced is that they do not want the three-person arbitration teams to know ahead of time which cases they will be hearing. They are to base their findings solely on the information presented to them in the room that day. Makes sense.

    • crdswmn says:

      The Cardinals may still settle with Jay (likely they will) but this whole thing still seems odd to me. I am with you in wondering if there is something festering that has nothing to do with money.

      When I saw those pics Jay tweeted of him with Descalso and Craig right before the WWU, I started to wonder. I know the org really pushes for players to attend WWU, and his absence to just have some fun with his friends (which he could do any other time) seemed strange.

      I may be reading too much into it, it wouldn’t be the first time.

    • crdswmn says:

      So I saw that Parker lost his hearing. Haven’t heard about Walker.

  6. Brian Walton says:

    Todd Frazier wanted $5.7 MM in his first year, but agreed to terms on two years, $12 MM.

  7. Brian Walton says:

    Reliever Mike Dunn signed for 2 yrs, $5.8MM with Marlins to avoid arbitration.

    • crdswmn says:

      What’s with the big deferral until 2016? Jay is not going to be a better player then. He’s likely to be worse.

      It can be no secret that this deal is a huge disappointment to me. Peter Bourjos is a better player than Jay, and this deal only assures that he will rot on the bench for another year. What a colossal waste of talent.

      • Brian Walton says:

        What deferral? Isn’t it basically $4.75 million this year and $6.225 million next?

        • crdswmn says:

          It’s 3.5 million salary this year. The other 1.25 million is a signing bonus, which I don’t get.

          It’s all irrelevant anyway. What’s done is done. I don’t like it but it doesn’t matter.

          • Brian Walton says:

            A signing bonus is paid up front and is the opposite of a deferral. Essentially, Jay gets that part of his 2015 money sooner. Win for him. The $3.5 million is what will be paid during the course of the season. Anyone who quotes the $3.5 million alone as his salary for the year will be misrepresenting reality.

            • crdswmn says:

              Whatever. Makes me like it even less.

              • Brian Walton says:

                Yes, I thought that might be the case. If you think $6.225 for next season is fair, then Jay won this year, as the $4.75 is $200,000 above the midpoint of the submitted amounts. And that does not include time value of Jay getting the signing bonus money ahead of time.

                • crdswmn says:

                  Hey, I know my views are not shared by many people. I get that Jay is popular and he does things that fans like. I get all that intangible mumbo jumbo. But I also know from watching both Jay and Bourjos play for the last 4 years that Bourjos is a better player, whether anyone else wants to believe that or not.

                  So yeah, I am going to be disappointed when Jay gets rewarded for being not as good as someone else is and that someone else continues to get screwed. It’s kind of like how my life has gone for the last 6 years, so I am used to the disappointment. I’ll get over it.

  8. Brian Walton says:

    Final arb hearing scorecard: Teams won 8, players 6. 14 hearings is one more than last four years in total.

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