Rays News

Why Matt Joyce Is Still Valuable To The Tampa Bay Rays

By Drew Jenkins

2014 was arguably Matt Joyce‘s most disappointing season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Generally a nice power hitter to complement the likes of Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, Joyce’s slugging percentage (.383) and ISO (.129) slipped to career-lows.

As such, many thought this would be the end of Joyce’s tenure with the Rays. He will go through arbitration for the final time this offseason, where he will likely make in the ballpark of $5 million, and he will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Because of this, Joyce has been labeled as a potential non-tender or trade candidate. But, do not write Joyce off just yet because he can still be a valuable member of the Rays’ club.

As much as Joyce’s power slipped in 2014, he was still an above-average hitter. His 113 wRC+ indicated that he was a 13 percent above league average hitter, and he also posted a respectable .325 wOBA. While his power output was disappointing, he still hit a decent .254 and got on base at a solid .349 clip. All of that indicates that Joyce had plenty of value as a hitter in 2014.

Joyce has been an above-average hitter his entire career as well. While he probably will not reproduce his 131 and 126 wRC+’s of 2010 and 2011, his 116, 112 and 113 marks over the last three seasons are still solid marks. For a Rays team that finished just 27th in baseball in runs scored in 2014, they certainly need all the offensive help they can get, and Joyce can be a valuable part of their lineup.

Of course, Joyce does have his limits. Depending on the defensive stat you prefer, Joyce is, at best, an average defender, but some metrics rank him as below-average. He has also hit just .189/.258/.316 against lefties in his career, and that means that he is only valuable in a platoon.

Still, Joyce has posted fWAR’s of 1.7, 1.7 and 1.9 in each of the last three seasons. That certainly is not winning any MVP awards, but it indicates that, in the role he has been in, Joyce has been a solid player for the Rays.

Non-tendering Joyce would make little sense for the Rays. Fangraphs says he has been worth $7.5 million, $8.7 million and $10.5 million in value over the past three seasons, so his around $5 million salary in 2015 seems plenty reasonable. Using that same logic, it does not make sense for the Rays to trade Joyce for little return.

Trading him still makes sense, as the Rays have a logjam in the outfield, including three lefties in Joyce, Kevin Kiermaier and David DeJesus. But, with Joyce likely to produce some excess value in 2015, there is no reason to trade him for a fringe prospect. If they get good value, it makes plenty of sense to deal him, but Joyce’s ability to bring back a good return has been questioned this offseason.

If there has been any 2014 Rays player that most people thought would not return in 2015, it has been Joyce. Even Joyce himself acknowledge after the season that there was a good chance he would not return. But, he can still be a valuable player to the Rays, and they need to keep that in mind before they non-tender him or trade him for little return.