The Winter Meetings have come and gone, and we have heard nothing at all about a potential Matt Joyce trade. We know that the Tampa Bay Rays want to deal him, and they may actually need to trade him or David DeJesus–they simply have too many outfielders right now. However, a quick search of Joyce’s name at MLB Trade Rumors reveals nothing more than the obvious, that the Rays want to send Joyce elsewhere.
Will the Rays be stuck with Joyce because there simply is not interest for him on the market? Hearing all this quiet has to make that thought creep into the back of our minds, but it simply is not true. There are nine MLB teams who should have varying degrees of interest in Joyce, and let’s go through them right now.
9. San Francisco Giants
With Mike Morse currently a free agent, the Giants currently have Gregor Blanco lined up to play left field. Though Joyce is a better hitter than Blanco, Blanco defends well enough that he may be just as good of a player overall.
The issue for the Giants, though, is that Angel Pagan has been extremely injury-prone the last two years, playing in just 167 games combined. Blanco will be needed in centerfield the next time Pagan gets hurt, and that would leave a gaping hole for the Giants in left.
After San Francisco signed Morse last offseason despite the presence of Blanco and Pagan, it could make sense for them to acquire a left fielder once again this offseason. The problem with this: Joyce is a lefty bat, making it harder for the Giants to find playing time for him until a Pagan injury does happen.
8. Cincinnati Reds
If the Reds are going to contend next season, they need a left fielder. With Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey both gone, the Reds have no clear starter in left, and Joyce could easily fix that. The Reds aren’t higher up this list, though, because they may be looking to retool after dealing Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, and acquiring a one-year rental like Joyce may not be the right move for them.
7. Miami Marlins
The Marlins’ outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna is excellent, but first base is another story. Garrett Jones hasn’t hit much the last two years, and there are limited first base options on the market to replace him.
If the Marlins don’t sign Mike Morse, trading for Joyce and moving him to first base may be the Marlins’ best bet for improvement at the position. The Rays talked about using Joyce at first base before they re-signed James Loney last offseason, and it could make sense for the Marlins to actually go through with the position switch.
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6. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
C.J. Cron played decently as a rookie, but he showed poor plate discipline and managed just a .570 OPS in his last 121 plate appearances of the season. Every player goes through the slumps, but it easily could have been that the league figured out Cron given his deficiencies. With that in mind, Joyce could represent an upgrade over Cron at DH against right-handed pitching, and he could also provide needed depth in the outfield and at first base.
Cron was a disaster defensively in his 36 games at first base when the Angels gave Albert Pujols half-days off, and Joyce can’t possibly be any worse. In addition, Joyce Hamilton could certainly get hurt again, and having Joyce around to take his place would mitigate the Angels’ risk by a considerable margin. The Angels are still in win-now mode, and Joyce could be a nice piece to help them stay there.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
There is a major stigma against intra-division trades, but that will be the least of Matt Silverman’s worries as he hopes to find a suitor for Joyce. The Jays could fit well for him because he would be a major improvement over Justin Smoak at first base or DH, and he could also provide depth in the outfield.
Toronto seems primed to give prospect Dalton Pompey their starting centerfield job for next season, but he has just 99 plate appearances above Double-A and could use more minor league time. In addition, as Rays fans know quite well from Wil Myers, the Jays could keep Pompey back to get an additional year of team control. Joyce could start in left field and push Michael Saunders to center until Pompey is called up, and then Joyce could stick around as a DH and occasional outfielder.
4. Baltimore Orioles
Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis have now departed as free agents, and the Orioles are still looking for a bat to fill their vacancies. Baltimore has at-bats available at right field and DH that may have Joyce’s name on them, and he could also make Alejandro De Aza expendable if the Orioles decide to go that route.
Baltimore is rumored to have interest in Colby Rasmus and Delmon Young, but Joyce fits better for the Orioles’ needs than either of them. If the Orioles trade De Aza, acquiring both Joyce and Young could give them an interesting DH platoon.
3. Texas Rangers
The Rangers currently have Michael Choice, Jake Smolinski, Ryan Rua, and Mitch Moreland set to man left field and DH for them. As they look to rebound from their rough 2014, Texas will certainly look to improve upon that situation, and that is where Joyce could come in.
Choice, Smolinski, and Rua are all right-handed hitters that could platoon with him in left field if they are not ready to get rid of Moreland, and he could always slide to DH if any of them proves himself worthy of additional time. The fact that the Rangers selected Delino DeShields Jr. in the Rule 5 Draft makes the situation a little more complicated, but Joyce is a good enough hitter that the Rangers should be quite interested in him nonetheless.
2. Seattle Mariners
With Nelson Cruz set to play more DH than the outfield and Michael Saunders in Toronto, the Mariners’ outfield needs serious work. James Jones, Dustin Ackley, and Stefen Romero are far from impressive, and the Mariners are desperate enough to improve that situation that they’re willing to play Brad Miller in the outfield.
Joyce would improve Seattle’s corner outfield situations by leaps and bounds and give them a year to look for a more permanent solution. A lot of the Mariners’ outfielders are also lefty hitters, but Joyce is a good deal better than them and that should not make a difference.
1. Kansas City Royals
At the end of the day, the Rays’ most willing trade partner may be the Royals. The last time these two teams made a trade, it helped the Royals get to the World Series, and the Rays are far from mad about having Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi for the next several years.
With Nori Aoki a free agent, the Royals don’t have anything going on in right field right now. The Royals could, of course, bring Aoki back, but Joyce is a much better hitter and can’t be any worse than Aoki was defensively.
Joyce would fill a major need for the Royals as they hope their World Series appearance is the start of a sustained period of contention. In addition, the 2008 Rays-2014 Royals parallels would continue–the Rays acquired Joyce from the Tigers just months after the 2008 World Series.
These are the nine teams that should have some amount of interest in Joyce, and the top three to five could be especially strong suitors. It may take some time for a Matt Joyce trade to happen, but the interest is out there and the Rays should eventually get a solid return for their 30 year old outfielder.