SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Kansas City Royals have plugged a hole in center field by agreeing to sign Jon Jay.
Jay agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract Tuesday, and could earn another $1.5 million in performance bonuses. Kansas City made room for Jay by placing pitcher Jesse Hahn on the 60-day disabled list with an elbow injury.
With Lorenzo Cain leaving to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Royals lacked an experienced center fielder to cover the spacious Kauffman Stadium grass.
We’ve signed outfielder Jon Jay to a one-year contract for the 2018 season. Welcome to the #Royals! pic.twitter.com/QmKFx8WBIP— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) March 6, 2018
Jay has a .996 career fielding percentage, the highest of any active major league outfielder with a minimum of 500 games. He has appeared in 648 games in center during his eight-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.
Jay did not commit an error in 141 chances last season and enters this season with a 189-game errorless streak.
“Without knowing him, the more homework I do on him, the more I like him,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The more people I talk to, the more it’s like, ‘Wow, this guy brings a lot to the table.’ He’ll play a lot.”
He hit .296 in 141 games last season with the Cubs, including .325 (13 for 40) as a pinch-hitter. He would get $100,000 bonuses for 250 plate appearances and each additional 25 through 600. Still, his earnings will be well under his $8 million salary last year.
The 32-year-old is a left-handed hitter, which is attractive to the Royals, who have a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup.
“Jay brings veteran leadership, a very consistent, solid bat,” Yost said. “Good defense in the outfield. He’ll fit in. Plays all three outfield positions, DH, whatever. He’s always been a productive bat and is an 80 makeup guy, which is the highest on the scale. A really good teammate, really productive.”
Jay said it has been a “very strange” offseason on the free agent market.
“I’m happy to be here, excited to be here, happy to be in spring training,” he said. “There are a lot of pieces here. I’m here to do my part.”
Hahn, who was acquired from Oakland in a trade for Brandon Moss, experienced elbow discomfort in his start Thursday. It has been diagnosed as a right ulnar collateral ligament sprain.
The club is sending Hahn’s medical reports to Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a second opinion. Hahn had Tommy John surgery in 2010.
“Hopefully we were able to catch something soon enough and take control of the situation and hopefully I end up good to go,” Hahn said. “We’re just going to treat it right now and see how it responds. Test it dynamically, let it calm down and then get out there, start a throwing program and just take it from there, one step day by day.”
Outfield prospect and former first-round draft pick Bubba Starling has stopped baseball activity because of an oblique issue. He was limited to 80 games last season with Triple-A Omaha because of an oblique strain.