Pittsburgh Pirates: Should They Look At Outfielder Jon Jay?

(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded Andrew McCutchen almost two weeks ago.  They now have a hole in the outfield that they should look to fill if they truly want to compete in 2018.

In was only a matter of time until the Pittsburgh Pirates dealt franchise outfielder Andrew McCutchen.  It was inevitable to happen this offseason, especially after how close it seemed last offseason.  At the time, everyone expected McCutchen to be dealt before the trade deadline in 2017.  He then would be replaced by budding prospect Austin Meadows.  Well, two things happened.  First, Meadows saw himself put up the worst numbers of his career at Triple-A, then lose almost half the season to injury.  The second thing that happened was that there was not much of an outfield market at the deadline.  So instead, the Bucs held Cutch.

With that, many thought there was a chance that the Pittsburgh Pirates would hold onto him for his final season.  They thought the Bucs would give it one last go and see if they could get back into the playoffs.  Then, directly after Neal Huntington claimed that they believe they can field a competitive team for the upcoming season, they traded McCutchen away for two young players from the Giants.

The biggest issue with that statement is that they now have a large hole in the outfield.  Looking at the current roster, the most likely situation would be a platoon of Adam Frazier and Jordan Luplow in right field.  That should not get any fan excited about this team’s chances in 2018.  Luplow, who has a proven minor league track record, is still basically an unknown.  This leaves Frazier, who has ways to go in terms of his defense to be a suitable outfielder.

A Better Option

Could the Pittsburgh Pirates find a cheap outfield option who could be more reliable than these two?  Yes.  First off, the site has covered a few times about looking at former Mariners and Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson.  However, there is another similar style outfielder the Bucs should be even more familiar with and contemplate signing.  That outfielder is a former Cardinal, Padre, and Cub in Jon Jay.

The Pirate Killer

Many Pittsburgh Pirates fans know Jay as a “Pirate Killer.”  He has always been a plus defender and not much more than average at the plate.  Yet, against the Bucs, he has always seemed to mash. He would automatically represent a better outfielder than Frazier or Luplow.  He would allow the Bucs to keep Polanco and his arm in right field as well.  The plan as of now is to send Polanco to the more spacious left field.  Jay could play left field, and in turn, would help increase the team’s defense as a whole.

In general, it would be nice to get him off of opposing teams!  Seriously though, he would represent an affordable and more proven player than the current options on the roster. Jay appeared in 141 games for the Cubs last season, and had a decent season putting up a 1.6 WAR per FanGraphs.  His slash line was .296/.374/.375, so as usual with Jay, very little pop, but he did a great job of getting on base.   His BABip was relatively high at .368 suggesting, that he received some luck on his side, but that kind of goes with his career norms.  In his 326 innings in left field last season he had an 11.8 UZR/150, so he should be more than capable of playing left field at PNC Park.

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What Would it Take

MLB Trade Rumors predicted Jay to get about two years at $14 million over the course of the contract.  With how this market is shaking out, it is likely that he could be had for even cheaper.  He could be had for closer to $5 million a season. One issue could be the years.  If Jay is looking for a contract that is more than one year, he likely will not get it from the Pirates. However, with all the payroll the Pittsburgh Pirates cut, they should have the “financial flexibility” to sign him. Not only should he fit into their financial plans, but he should fit into their actual roster plans as well.