Rays Rumors

The Tampa Bay Rays Need to Trade Matt Joyce

By Dan Herrejon

Like most players on the Tampa Bay Rays roster, Matt Joyce struggled in 2014. The difference for Joyce, however, is that this is not a new thing. Since his All-Star year in 2011, Joyce has failed to deliver satisfactory production from his platoon role with the team. The time has come for the Rays to cut their losses with Joyce and trade him to a team that needs a left-handed bat.

Last season, Joyce hit .254 with 9 home runs and 52 runs batted in. At first glance, these stats don’t appear to be bad. Joyce had a .349 on-base percentage and a .383 slugging percentage to lead to a 111 OPS+, 11% above-average. The issue, however, is that 11% above-average is not enough when we consider Joyce’s flaws.

First and foremost, we have to remember that Joyce is a platoon player and nothing more. He hasn’t hit lefties in years, managing just a .147 average and not a single walk in his 35 plate appearances against him this season, and there is no reason to think that will ever change. The fact that Joyce can only play against pitchers from one side severely limits his playing time–even though Joyce has not been on the disabled list the last two seasons, he failed to top 500 plate appearances either year.

In the field, Joyce isn’t a terrible defender. Thanks to a good arm and decent range, Joyce is roughly an average defensive corner outfielder or slightly below. However, with the Rays possessing Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier, and Brandon Guyer, all of whom cover more ground than Joyce, it becomes more evident that Joyce only hurts the team when they put him out there defensively. With superior options available, why should Joyce ever be playing the field?

You can say that Joyce may be a good candidate for the DH role against right-handed pitching. In that limited capacity, he seems set up to do well. But in Joe Maddon’s lineup laboratory, the team needs versatility. Joyce has very little of it. He can’t lefties–and has seen his power decrease even against righties–and you don’t want him in the field. That combination should make him the odd man out in the Rays’ outfield for 2015.

There comes a time when any team that has experienced the kind of success that the Rays have had needs to make some tough decisions. The Rays have gotten rid of some great ballplayers, mostly for financial reasons. After the season that just finished, it would appear that now they must part with some players due to performance reasons as well. Given his limitations, Matt Joyce should be near the top of that list.