The Royals have signed outfielder Jon Jay to a one-year deal, per a club announcement Tuesday. The contract is worth $3 million with up to $1.5 million in performance bonuses, per Rustin Dodd of The Athletic.
Jay, 32, surprisingly remained on the free-agent market several weeks into spring training despite having a bounce-back 2017 season with the Cubs. Over 433 plate appearances, Jay posted a .296/.374/.375 slash line with two home runs and six stolen bases. He saw action at all three outfield positions, posting an even defensive runs saved rating at the corner spots while recording -4 DRS in center.
Jay, a .288/.355/.383 career hitter over eight seasons with the Cardinals, Padres, and Cubs, appears likely to start regularly in Kansas City’s outfield, though he may move around to different spots, much like he did in Chicago last year. Manager Ned Yost said Tuesday that Jay will get plenty of time in the outfield and at DH, per MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan.
Alex Gordon is more or less locked into a starting spot due to his contract, while Jorge Bonifacio had a strong rookie season last year and has gotten off to a scalding-hot start this spring. While both players have some experience in center field, it appears most likely that they’ll flank Jay at the corners more often than not, with Jorge Soler also seeing time at the corner spots and as the designated hitter.
Jay’s signing appears to make the path to playing time more complicated for 32-year-old Paulo Orlando, who went into spring training as the favorite to claim the center field role, as well as non-roster invitees like Michael Saunders and Tyler Collins.
To make room for Jay on the 40-man roster, Kansas City placed pitcher Jesse Hahn on the 60-day disabled list with a right UCL sprain.