With incumbent center fielder Dexter Fowler weighing his options in free agency, the Cubs on Tuesday plucked another player off the open market, agreeing with veteran Jon Jay on a one-year contract worth $8 million.
Jay, 32 in March and coming off a season with the Padres shortened by a broken right arm, gives the Cubs yet another versatile defender in a deep outfield corps.
It marks the second straight offseason that the Cubs have signed a former Cardinals outfielder in an apparent parting of ways with Fowler. But the Heyward splash last winter did not spell the end of Fowler's Cubs career; instead, he returned to the team during Spring Training on a surprise one-year contract, and went on to post a .393 on-base percentage that ranked sixth in the National League.
Jay, meanwhile, spent 2016 with the Padres after the Cardinals traded him following six seasons in St. Louis. Jay was hitting .296/.345/.407 for San Diego before suffering a fractured right forearm on a hit-by-pitch on June 28, and did not return until September.
In his seven Major League seasons, Jay is a .287/.352/.384 hitter. He can play all three outfield positions and is considered an above-average defensive center fielder, with a .995 fielding percentage overall that ties Jacoby Ellsbury for the best mark among active outfielders.
Jay is a left-handed hitter. Almora, the 22-year-old former first-round Draft pick who reached the Major Leagues for the first time in 2016, bats right-handed, opening the possibility of a platoon.