Jon Jay reached an agreement with the Chicago White Sox. What does the outfielder’s signing mean for the Cincinnati Reds’ search for a centerfielder?
The Cincinnati Reds non-tendered Billy Hamilton over a month ago, and it appears, have yet to find his replacement in centerfield. Jon Jay could’ve been an inexpensive stopgap, but the former St. Louis Cardinal signed with the Chicago White Sox. What does Jay’s signing mean for the Reds and their pursuit of a starting centerfielder?
Jay, 33, signed a one-year deal with Chicago for $4M. He did not have an incredibly productive year in 2018, but over the course of his 8-year Major League career, Jay’s been an adequate contact hitter with a career OPS+ of 100 and a .285 batting average. He will bring a left-handed bat, albeit without much power, to the Sox’s lineup and his relationship with Manny Machado is expected to help Chicago land the All-Star shortstop.
So, there’s another potential fit for the Reds off the table. Yes, Cincinnati has a lot of outfielders currently on the roster, however, most of them appear to be most comfortable in the corner outfield spots and the Reds have a glaring hole in centerfield.
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Yes, Scott Schebler and Yasiel Puig have experience playing the position, but it’s limited. Yes, Great American Ball Park allowed Shin-Soo Choo to play centerfield in 2013, but the Cincinnati Reds do not play all 162 games at GABP. And yes, Nick Senzel is a possibility to play centerfield next season, but he hasn’t played a Major League game yet, much less ever played the position.
I still expect a couple dominoes to fall this offseason. I cannot see the Reds taking Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and Phillip Ervin into the season as the team’s outfield. Yes, offensively it could work very well, but the team would be incredibly limited up the middle defensively. Some fans have speculated that moving José Peraza to the outfield would open up an infield position for Senzel. While that sounds interesting, I can’t see that happening either.
I still think the most likely scenario is Cincinnati acquiring a centerfielder via free agency and improving their starting rotation by moving one of their outfielders in a trade. AJ Pollock is still available, and the Reds have been said to be interested in his services. Adam Jones is still on the market as well.
Considering the plethora of talented outfielders in the Cincinnati farm system, it’s difficult to see the Reds investing a lot in a centerfielder for this season. Jose Siri, TJ Friedl, and Mike Siani are all top prospects who are very capable of playing the position. Taylor Trammell, the Reds’ No. 2 prospect, may be a bit behind those three in terms of development, but his projection is off the charts.
Jay would’ve been a nice, inexpensive addition to the Cincinnati Reds outfield in 2019, but he’ll be spending the summer on the South Side of Chicago instead. There’s still a lot of time left in the offseason and plenty of possibilities for the Reds to upgrade their centerfield position.