The Jedd Gyorko experiment is officially over. Once thought to be one of the most promising young prospects for San Diego, AJ Preller and the Padres have sent Jedd packing to the Cardinals and have to eat quite a hefty contract for the young second baseman. In return, St. Louis sends the 6-year veteran Jon Jay back to the Padres, yet another outfielder to clog Andy Green’s lineup.
Jedd Gyorko was off to a blazing hot start to his career in 2013, as he was in the Rookie of the Year conversation by years-end. Never a player admired for his batting average, Gyorko was projected to be a pure power-hitter, something not seen very often out of second basemen. As a rookie, Gyorko recorded 23 home runs, 26 doubles, and 63 RBI in limited playing time. As mentioned, his slash line of .249/.301/.444 was only acceptable because of his power numbers.
In year 2, Gyorko had quite the drop-off. His line dropped quite a bit to .210/.280/.333 in 2014. Instead of continuing to develop as a pro and taking the next step from a batting average perspective, it was quite obvious Gyorko was starting to head the other way. Even his power numbers fell dramatically, only recording 10 home runs, 17 doubles, and 51 RBI. Gyorko’s decline in productivity was exacerbated by the fact that former Padres GM Josh Byrnes signed Jedd to a lucrative deal in the spring before the 2014 season. His contract was worth $35 million guaranteed through 2019, with a 6th-year club option in 2020 worth an additional $13 million… ouch. Although quite a big contract for a young player, the way Brynes set it up will actually pay off for San Diego in the long run; Gyorko’s salary was set to increase 2-fold each year, paying him $2 million in 2014, $4 million in 2015, etc.. At the time, Gyorko’s contract was the 3rd largest for a player with only 1-year of MLB service, only trailing Ryan Braun and Andrelton Simmons.
Jedd had somewhat of a bounce-back season in 2015, but still did not live up to the standards the Padres may have hoped for. Pre-All Star break, Jedd was off to a terrible start posting a .228 batting average, only 3 home runs, and 14 RBI. Preller sent the 3rd-year pro down to the minors for about a month so he could re-tool his swing. It seemed to pay off quite a bit as he bounced back in the second half with a .259 batting average, 13 home runs, and 43 RBI. Interim Manager Patt Murphy even got Jedd exposure at short stop, and it seemed like things were finally turning around for the young slugger.
Reports say that the Padres had to send quite a bit of cash to the Cardinals for them to take on Gyorko’s contract. AJ Preller clearly was not a fan of Gyorko and was ready to move on as they swallow a lot of his contract. The move is also interesting considering the Padres really lack true middle infielders (and corner infielders for that matter) and have had a plethora of outfielders over the last calendar year. The move suggests that Cory Spangenberg will get more playing time at second base, a player that AJ Preller probably believes is a little more prototypical of a speedy second basemen with more range defensively. After the Yonder Alonso trade, it has been reported that Wil Myers will take over first base, which opens up center field for the Jon Jay/Melvin Upton Jr. combinations.
The Padres get a outfielder in Jon Jay who is coming off his worst season of his career statistically in 2015. Preller most likely saw this as an excellent opportunity to pick up a proven veteran and drop some salary commitments. The career-Cardinal batted a measly .210 with a .306 OBP and .259 slugging percentage in 2015. He has never been regarded as a power hitter, only hitting 10 homeruns once in his entire career. He is, however, highly touted as a hitter-for-average. Jay boasts a career .286 batting average (.354 career OBP) and has batted .297 or higher in 4 of his 6 professional seasons. The Padres have lacked anything close to a contact hitter in recent years and the front office has to be hoping that this gamble pays off. It is also fair to point out that Jon Jay battled injuries all last season and played in less than 100 games. Preller has gambled on a few injury prone players in the last year, and they are hoping this situation turns out a little better.
With Alonso and Gyorko now gone, Will Middlebrooks and Clint Barmes essentially out of the picture, and the clear ineffectiveness of Alexi Amarista last season, it seems like the Padres’ infield is due for quite the shake up. As previously mentioned, Wil Myers should get the nod at first base and it is plausible that Cory Spangenberg gets the bulk of starts at second base. The Padres lack a true short stop on the entire roster and many would speculate that AJ Preller will be looking to fill this void next. Spangenberg could also see playing time at 3rd base, and it is possible Yangervis Solarte may have won over the position at the end of last year. One thing for certain, Preller and company are not done yet.