Thursday, November 12, 2009

Matt Joyce Should Be Playing Everyday

Certainly, most people will consider the Tigers to be the winner of last winter's Edwin Jackson-for-Matt Joyce swap, given that Jackson finally was able to get a handle on his impressive power stuff and have the breakout that analysts had been talking about before he was legally able to drink.

But people seem to be quickly forgetting that Matt Joyce is actually an awfully good player. In 2008, after posting a .270/.352/.550 line in 227 PA in AAA, he was called up to Detroit and posted an impressive .252/.339/.492 line in 277 PA. He had some trouble with strikeouts, but his walk rate was solid, and he's an above average defender in right and left field.

In spite of this, after being traded to Tampa, he was quickly demoted to AAA, where he would toil for the majority of the season, getting only 37 PA with the Rays. His offensive performance wasn't as impressive superficially, he posted a .273/.373/.482 line with Durham, but he improved his walk rate while cutting down on his strikeout rate, and he still showed plus power, so it's tough to argue that Joyce regressed in any way.

I just don't see how this guy can still be in the minor leagues any longer. Not only is he a patient hitter with some pop, but he's an above average defender that's had success at the ML level for a relatively significant period of time, and he's continued to thrive in AAA.

Considering that he's not due to become a free agent until after the 2014 season, he could be a great addition to some team if he doesn't get a spot on the Rays. Given that Ben Zobrist will likely take over as Tampa's permanent everyday second baseman next year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Joyce as Tampa's everyday right fielder to start next season, with an eye on moving him to left field when Desmond Jennings is ready and Carl Crawford departs, whether that's through a trade or free agency.

But if the Rays aren't willing to commit to Joyce as an everyday outfielder now, then he could be a great acquisition for some team that's in need of a long-term solution in a corner outfield spot.

Please, somebody give this guy an everyday job.


  1. I thought Tampa dealt away Imawura to let Sean Rodriguez, a guy who slugged over .600 in the minors, take over 2B?

    Now, of course it is no guarantee that Rodriguez will perform, but much like Joyce it doesn't seem like he has a ton to learn in the minors anymore, although he could try to cut down on his K rate.

    If Rodriguez is playing well at 2B, Zobrist is posting another good slugging, high OBP season in right, then Tampa has a good logjam going. Do they put Joyce on the bench, or do they deal him?

    The overall point though, I agree with you. Joyce should be playing everyday, but so should Rodriguez, IMO.

  2. I would think that if we can get Zobrist into 2B, and leave the RF position open for another player, we should go ahead and do that.

    Ultimately it will come down to money with the Rays, but for the 2B position we will have to see how Spring Training turns out.

    Crawford will not be a Ray this time next year.

    That much we know, so we need to groom other OFs (Joyce and Jennings are atop that list).

  3. Sean Rodriguez definitely deserves some playing time, but realistically, the Rays should be playing Zobrist at second base everyday.

    Statistically, Zobrist was awesome at second base. Although the sample size is VERY limited, at only 99 games, his +31.7 UZR/150 is exceptional. If Zobrist is even close to being as good defensively as UZR indicates, then he should be playing their everyday in order to take advantage of that ability.

    Rodriguez has some nice upside, he destroyed AAA in 2009, but he still struck out in 32.6% of his at bats, so he hasn't fixed his issues with consistently making contact. The improved walk rate was nice to see, and given his power his bat will likely play at a middle infield position even if he's slightly below-average defensively.

    But if the Rays had to choose between Zobrist at 2B and Joyce in right, or Rodriguez at 2B and Zobrist in right, they're probably better off taking the former, given Joyce's far superior MLB track record (albeit in limited playing time), and the likeliness that Zobrist is a superior defender at second.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Rays entertained deals for Reid Brignac and Rodriguez this offseason, with the idea of retaining one of them to join Willy Aybar as the back-up infielder.

  4. I like the idea of the Cubs trying to pry Joyce away in a Bradley/Burrell deal. Maybe Bradley and Colvin or Carridad for Burrell and Joyce with the Cubs picking up a significant portion of the salary difference between Burrell and Bradley. Obviously the teams could work out the other players if the Rays aren't interested in Colvin or Carridad, there's enough in the Cubs system to make it work. For the Rays they'd get two years of Bradley instead of one more of Burrell at a discounted price. They could fill a relief hole with Carridad or other young Cub pitcher. If they'd rather take an outfielder to replace Joyce (since he's not obviously in their immediate plans) they could look at Colvin. Vitters name may come up but the Rays don't need a 3b of course and it's doubtful the Cubs would trade Castro in this type deal (the Rays don't apparently need a SS either). The Cubs would get their RF replacement, left handed bat who's better defensively than Bradley. Fukudome would have to stay in center but his bat plays better there anyway and his defense is acceptable there. The Cubs would take a financial hit but they would be adding a good hitting outfielder who's young and inexpensive.

    This may not be an ideal trade but I'm sure the included players could be found to make it appealing to both teams. Perhaps the Rays would rather have two young pitchers, Stevens and Carridad or others? Interesting thought.