The Padres are interested in retaining outfielder Jon Jay beyond the season and have already engaged with him on contract talks, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The veteran is scheduled reach free agency this fall.
Jay, 31, was in the midst of a productive campaign for San Diego before a wayward pitch fractured his forearm. Generally regarded as a solid defender in center, Jay also ran up a useful .296/.345/.407 slash with a then-league-leading 24 doubles over 291 plate appearances. He has been working his way back since hitting the DL in late June, and is expected to return in early or mid-September.
Prior to the injury, Jay seemed like a quality trade piece for the Friars. And there still seems to be at least an outside shot at a deal materializing over the next five days. (He could still be traded after the calendar flips to September, but an acquiring team would not be able to use him on its postseason roster.) This latest news, however, suggests that San Diego may instead keep Jay around — though he could certainly be dealt and then re-signed.
It’s not immediately clear whether the club is interested in keeping Jay from reaching the open market, or instead hopes to get a head start on free agent talks. Manager Andy Green suggested the latter, labeling it “an offseason discussion” to be had at year end. And Jay seems to be inclined to test the free agent waters, even if he sees a return to San Diego as a desirable possibility.
While Jay said it was “great” to be approached, he went on to explain that he’d likely need to weigh the alternatives. “Obviously, with free agency, you wait so long to get to this point as a player, you want to see what’s out there,” said Jay. “But at the same time, I feel very comfortable here. I do like it a lot here, so this is definitely something my wife and I will discuss when we’re making those decisions.”
As Lin well explains in the above-linked post, it is a bit surprising at first glance to learn of the Padres’ interest in retaining Jay. The organization has a fair number of untested but rather intriguing outfielders kicking around at or near the major league level, and doesn’t seem primed to contend in 2017. It seems, though, that Jay made quite an impression both on and off the field.
And while the injury was certainly a freak occurrence, it may limit his earning power somewhat and leave an opportunity for the team to realize some value if it does ultimately strike a deal. Though the overall free agent market is rather thin, there are a number of quality outfielders available, so it’ll be interesting to see how things develop with regard to Jay, who ought to draw fairly wide interest from a variety of teams.