NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Though excited about the destination ahead, Jon Jay, in saying goodbye to the professional organization in which he grew up over the last decade, fought mixed emotions upon learning Tuesday that he had been traded to the Padres.
The Cardinals, who entered the offseason with a surplus of outfielders, exchanged Jay for infielder Jedd Gyorko on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings. Approximately $7.5 million, according to sources, also changed hands to help offset some of the $32 million Gyorko is owed over the next four seasons.
Jay, under contract for $6.225 million 2016, sits a year away from free agency and no longer had a defined role with a club that drafted him in 2006 and brought him to the Majors four years later. Jay was a part of a club that captured a World Series championship in 2011, the start of a five-year run in which the Cardinals have advanced to the postseason each season.
"You think about his impact as a player, what he meant to his teammates as a friend, and what he was like in the clubhouse, it was special," general manager John Mozeliak said. "When I talked to him this morning to tell him [about the trade], I think we were both reminiscing on that run. It was something that we'll always have and share together."
"Today, I just started to think about the guys I was able to play with and learn from -- from Tony La Russa to Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal and Chris Carpenter, guys that I got to learn the game from and all this tradition," added Jay. "That's the sad part. But the positive part is I now have a good opportunity in San Diego. Going into the winter, I knew this was a possibility."
After signing a two-year extension in January, Jay fought through left wrist troubles for much of the year. The recovery from a surgical procedure in October 2014 was arduous, and it limited Jay to 79 games and a slash line of .210/.306/.257. In the meantime, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham emerged as two center-field options for the future.
And if the club is successful in its attempts to re-sign Jason Heyward, that outfield will only get more crowded. As it is now, the Cards project to start Matt Holliday in left, Grichuk in center and Heyward or Stephen Piscotty in right. Brandon Moss can also play the corner outfield, while Pham can fill any of three spots off the bench.
Mozeliak, speaking late Tuesday afternoon, said that he had "nothing to update" as far as the team's continued Heyward pursuit was concerned. That said, there was an expectation that the free-agent outfield market would soon crystallize, and Ben Zobrist's deal with the Cubs on Tuesday could push that along.
The Cardinals have not ruled out exploring other outfielders should Heyward not return.
"We're not going to limit ourselves to just putting ourselves in a box with one opportunity," Mozeliak said. "We're still going to look at ways to improve the club. We're certainly not closing that door."