The Kansas City Royals’ outfield just got a bit more crowded. Tuesday afternoon, reports surfaced that the team signed former Cubs, Padres and Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay to a one-year contract. What does this move mean?
It appears as if Jesse Hahn heading to the 60-day DL isn’t the only big Royals news of the day. While scrolling down Twitter, I saw this on my feed:
More from Kings of Kauffman
- KC Royals Free Agent Hunt: 3 Tampa Bay pitchers
- Grading the 2022 KC Royals: The $25 million man
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Expectations met
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Day 3 update
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Day 2 update
I know a lot of you were hoping for news about a different player (and old friend) signing with the team, but you’ll have to keep holding out on that one. In an unexpected move, Jon Jay is now a Royal. The veteran outfielder hit .296 in 141 games with the Cubs last season after not playing a full season worth of games since 2014. Having spent time at all three outfield spots in 2017, the left-hander will bring versatility to the team.
Jay’s contract has a base salary of $3 million and can reach $4.5 million with added incentives. On the surface, this move looks like a solid addition to the team. When digging deeper, though, many questions arise. What does this move mean for the Royals in 2018?
Theory 1: Dayton Moore wants to remain competitive
Although we’ve been down this avenue before, it’s necessary we do so again. One of the most famous concepts surrounding General Manager Dayton Moore and his tenure with the Royals has been ‘The Process.’ Said process paid off when the team possessed one of the best farm systems in all of baseball less than seven years ago. Two pennants and a World Series ring later, things seem a bit different.
Now that Moore has tasted winning, it appears he’s having trouble letting it go. Despite many reports stating the organization is undergoing a full-fledged rebuild, members of the Royals front office have been reluctant to concede to that fact. This is about all Moore has indicated:
"“Our two main objectives are we have to build our farm system back to the level it was in 2010, 2011. We also need to get our payroll at a level that gives us more flexibility going forward.”"
Neither of the above statements ruled out signing Jay or Lucas Duda to one-year contracts. A pair of 32-year-old veteran, left-handed bats might mean more to the Royals than they would to another squad. In addition to Duda and Jay providing leadership, they also offer more production than the team thinks it can get from younger players such as Hunter Dozier and Bubba Starling. Perhaps Moore doesn’t want to throw in the towel on 2018 (more on the opposite end of the spectrum here in a second).
Theory 2: The Royals don’t trust Bubba Starling/Paulo Orlando
Jon Jay is a good baseball player. I’m thoroughly surprised he wasn’t signed to another squad before today. With that said, it doesn’t make much sense for a “rebuilding” team to sign a quality player, especially when considering there was both a prospect waiting for his shot and an AAAA-type outfielder already at the same position. While it’s nice to have a good centerfielder on your team, it’s a head-scratcher for the Royals nonetheless.
We already knew the team didn’t have 100% faith in Paulo Orlando. There were even talks of Whit Merrifield replacing Orlando in CF at one point in time. The thing that brings about so many questions is why the team made this move in a year that was supposed to be Bubba Starling’s first shot at the MLB. Adding Jay in the outfield makes another player Starling has to fight past in order to receive major-league playing time. It certainly makes one wonder what the team’s expectations of Starling are now.
Theory 3: Jay (and Duda) were signed as potential trade deadline pieces
As promised, we’ve reached the other end of Theory 1’s spectrum. Think back to the 2015 season when the Royals traded away multiple prospects for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. The team was in win-now mode and needed a piece or two to help make a World Series run. We all know it paid off in the end. Now, think about the same process, except in reverse.
The Kansas City Royals are not going to be a winning baseball team anytime soon. Maybe we’re all putting too much stock into a pair of manageable, one-year deals. It’s entirely possible Dayton Moore simply took a chance on Jay and Duda in hopes that if they have great starts to the year, they can be flipped to contenders for prospects at the trade deadline. It’s not too far-fetched and could be exactly what Moore’s plan is. Just food for thought.
There are infinite reasons the Royals could have for signing Jon Jay. Despite all of the speculation to come, we may never get a 100% clear statement from Dayton Moore about why he did this. While we wonder what’s going on, there is certainly something going on behind the scenes. For better or for worse has yet to be determined but until the end of the season, all we can do is think. Perhaps we’re putting too much thought into it? We’ll find out in the near future.
What do you think, Royals fans? What was going through Dayton Moore’s mind when he made this move? How will Jay fit into the club’s plans in 2018? Let us know what you have to say!