Will Jon Jay be the Cardinals' everyday CF next season?

QUESTION: Do you think the Cardinals will begin next season with Jon Jay as their everyday center fielder, or do you think it is more likely that there will be a time share at the position or that the team may even look outside for help?

There's is almost no question that Jon Jay will be the Cardinals' center fielder next season. Two reasons: He has played well defensively and hit .300 with some late-season power. And he doesn't make much money. If the Cardinals re-sign Albert Pujols and even Lance Berkman to go with Matt Holliday and several high-priced starting pitchers, they are going to need some regular  players making less than $1 million a year.
The club probably will look for a righthanded-hitting veteran outfielder who can play center field occasionally against lefthanded pitching.  They really don't have that now.

Jay had an all-around game Tuesday night, offering six putouts in the field and driving in two runs at the plate. He hit his 10th homer and had his fourth consecutive two-hit game. The second-year outfielder is being fitted for the everyday job in center in 2012 -- a new reality for a fielder who has started each of the past two seasons as a fourth outfielder and had to hit his way into playing time.

LARRY BOROWSKY (Founder of Viva El Birdos and editor of "Maple Street Press Cardinals Annual")
It depends on what happens with other players. If they retain all three of Berkman, Pujols, and Carpenter, they'll almost have to bring Jay back as the primary CF; there won't be room in the payroll for anyone costlier than league minimum, and they won't find a better league-minimum CF than Jay. That wouldn't be such a terrible outcome; Jay is an average player at the position, and he comes very cheap. If he needs a platoon partner, Allen Craig might be a candidate but CF is a stretch for him defensively.

Should one of the veterans leave, that would create payroll space to allocate to CF. Unfortunately the free-agent crop is uninspiring though, with only one candidate who's a clear upgrade over Jay -- that's Carlos Beltran, whose ability to play center at age 35 is questionable (he hasn't played an inning there this season). If they don't sign him, there's always the possibility a trade can be worked out. But the odds are good that Jay will end up as their best option. Perhaps they shouldn't have dealt away that other homegrown kid who could play CF  ... what was his name again?

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