The Chicago Cubs have signed former San Diego Padres outfielder Jon Jay. It looks like Dexter Fowler will be with a new ball club after all in 2017, putting many rumors to rest about a re-signing of the All-Star center fielder.
Jay, 31, is a lefty-lefty outfielder who, until last season, spent his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals after being drafted in the second round of the 2006 amateur draft. His career slash line of .287/.352/.384 is accompanied by 31 home runs and 253 RBIs. His career WAR of 12.0 is a little shy of Fowler’s 18.1, but he has also committed 27 fewer errors in roughly 230 fewer games played than the former Cub.
Fowler was a catalyst for this past season’s Chicago Cubs club, which won the World Series in spectacular fashion. A stellar leadoff man, he set the tone (and the table) for nearly every game played in 2016, minus a few due to injury.
However, the Cubs brass is very high on youngster Albert Almora, a 22-year-old righty-righty speedster who’s most likely looking at his first full season with the big club in 2017. I can see Almora and Jay platooning in center field, with right fielder Jason Heyward getting thrown into the mix, as well. Almora still has a lot to learn and could spend some time in right field while Gold Glove winner Heyward patrols the center and calls the outfield shots.
Plenty of other players could also contribute, depending on any other moves that could be made between now and spring training. Among those currently on the roster, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Matt Szczur, and Ben Zobrist all saw action in the outfield in 2016.
The most troubling issue with this move is that there’s no longer a clear cut leadoff man on the team. This could fall on Zobrist’s shoulders, as Almora is not of the lead off caliber. Expect to see him in the seven or eight hole to start this next season.