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By Stephen Nations

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Jon Jay deserves a break.

What is it about Jay that Cardinals fans find so unappealing? The Cardinals' every day center fielder is quietly putting together another very respectable campaign, slashing .292/.347/.380. And yet no one is noticing.

Somehow, in the court of public opinion, Jay is the weakest link on this team.

I've heard Jay's name pop up in trade talks for the past couple of weeks (namely to Minnesota) and my immediate reaction has been, "good for whoever trades for him."

Jay could be a coup if another team is able to get the Cards the right pieces to acquire him. At present, the Cardinals are rich with outfield depth, churning out more quality prospects than Tom Emanski and possessing the cash flow to lock up anyone they deem worthy of a multi-year contract. That makes Jay easier to pry away for another team than he would be under normal circumstances, but Mozeliak and Co. shouldn't be listening anyway.

It's time for a riddle. What do Chris Davis, Starlin Castro, Allen Craig, Alex Rodriguez, Eric Hosmer, and Adam Dun have in common? They are part of a handful of a very large group of players that have failed to produce as many wins for their club as Jon Jay has since he became an everyday player in 2010. Need some more numbers to prove his worth? Consider these tidbits:

  • Among Cardinals, Jay has a lower batting average than only Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina.
  • Only Matt Carpenter and Holliday have a higher OBP
  • His .355 BABIP indicates his performance has little to do with luck
  • You could buy five Jon Jay's for the cost of one Jhonny Peralta
  • Jay has a higher slugging percentage than Holliday and Craig

Not the most mind-bending stuff in the world, but it does paint a picture of Jay's value relative to what his team has been doing. Furthermore, the guys that Jay is losing his playing time to, Bourjos, Craig, and Randall Grichuk, are the ones that probably need the most help on the team right now.

This isn't to say that Jay is the man and the Cardinals need to scrap all other centerfield plans to accommodate Jay's Ruthian bat, by any means. I'm just pointing out that he has been more productive and consistent than an awful lot of people give him credit for. Beside all the numbers, Jay has an excellent reputation in the clubhouse and the community and is one of the longest tenured players on the roster. It's not like team chemistry is the type of thing you can ride to a pennant if you aren't stacked with talent, but it's what pushes the special teams over the top. I think losing Carlos Beltran was a much bigger blow to the leadership and accountability of the clubhouse than the loss of the numbers he contributed, and the subtraction of Jay could have a similar effect.

So be critical, Cardinals fans; question everything, but recognize the individual talents of each player and understand what their role is and what is expected of him. Jon Jay is doing the job the team expects him to as much as anyone else in the lineup.

Stephen Nations is an aspiring sports and Cardinals columnist. He will be contributing his commentary to KSDK.com during the 2014 season. You can follow him on twitter at @Nayshface.

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