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The St. Louis Cardinals addressed their infield need with Jedd Gyorko by trading away their former starter in center field, Jon Jay

The St. Louis Cardinals addressed their infield need by trading away their former starter in center field.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced this morning from Baseball's Winter Meetings that they have acquired infielder Jedd Gyorko (pronounced Jerk-oh) and cash considerations from the San Diego Padres in exchange for outfielder Jon Jay.

Gyorko, 27, who is under contract thru 2019, was a National League Rookie of the Year finalist in 2013 and has batted .236 with 49 home runs and 171 RBI in 364 career games with the Friars. He is ranked 4th among active Major League second basemen in HR's since debuting in 2013.

The right-handed hitting Gyorko hit a career-high 23 home runs during his 2013 rookie campaign, setting the Padres single-season record for home runs by a second baseman while batting .249 with 63 RBI. He was the first San Diego rookie to lead the team in HR's since former St. Louisan Nate Colbert did so in 1969.

In 128 games this past season, the Morgantown, WV native hit .247 with 16 round-trippers and 57 RBI, appearing at second base, shortstop and first base.   Over his three seasons with the Padres, Gyorko has played 319 games at second base, 29 at shortstop and 13 at third base.  He ranked 2ndamong N.L. second basemen in fielding pct. (.992) in 2014.

The 5-10, 205-pound Gyorko was the Padres 2nd round (59th player overall) draft selection in 2010 out of West Virginia University. He was named the recipient of the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation's top NCAA Division I shortstop following his 2010 junior season with the Mountaineers.

Jay, 30, was a member of the Cardinals since his draft selection in 2006 and was a key member of Cardinals' World Series teams in both 2011 & 2013

Brian Walton’s take

The Cardinals’ need for an upgrade at middle infield reserve to replace Pete Kozma and provide more rest for starters Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter, and Kolten Wong was clear.

While Gyorko is owed $33 million over the next four years, with free agent options such as Ben Zobrist reaching the territory of four years, $60 million, the Cards went the trade route instead.

It is worth noting that St. Louis is reportedly assuming $26 million of the remaining balance due Gyorko, 27, whom the Padres signed to a six-year, $35.5 million deal plus a 2020 option in April 2014. San Diego is also covering the $6.225 million going to Jay in 2016, so the Cardinals are taking on about $20 million in additional salary commitment over the next four years.

In other words, the Cardinals added Gyorko for an average annual value of about $6.5 million per year through 2019. His 2020 team option is for $13 million.

Able to pay shortstop and third base in addition to his regular home at second base, Gyorko looks to be a good fit to join the Cardinals infield mix. Carpenter, Peralta and Wong all appeared in 150 games or more last season and the latter two's performance fell off in the second half.

The right-handed hitter has pop in his bat and logged especially strong splits against left-handed pitching with an .803 OPS last season. That contrasts with the struggles of regular second baseman Wong against lefties.

Gyorko finished the second half of 2015 strongly after a rough start that included a 16-game demotion to the minors. He had a low on-base mark, but otherwise, his .259/.299/.440 second-half line that included 13 home runs in 281 plate appearances looks very positive – especially when compared to Kozma’s meager offense.

This move likely signals that Greg Garcia will return to Triple-A Memphis and serve as the next level of infield reserve.

Jay, 30, has one year remaining on his contract, but seemed redundant on the current roster, especially after losing his starting job in center field. He was slowed in 2015 by a wrist injury suffered in 2014, followed by surgery, and was at less than full strength at the plate. His worst season since joining St. Louis in 2010 ensued.

Jay's role in St. Louis as a starter is being taken by Randal Grichuk and as a reserve by rookie Tommy Pham.  Other outfielders on the roster include Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty and Brandon Moss with 2015 right fielder Jason Heyward being pursued in free agency.

With this move, the Cardinals have turned over their entire five-man bench in 2015 – Kozma, Mark Reynolds, Tony Cruz, Peter Bourjos and now, Jay.

For more roster detail

Remember that to see the entire Cardinals system from the Dominican Summer League to St. Louis in one graphical view with all transactions, free agents and more, check out the Roster Matrix, kept updated at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

Special for The Cardinal Nation members: Cardinals Prospect Interview: Luke Weaver.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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