Matt Joyce and the Oakland Athletics have come to terms on a two-year, $11 million deal, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, via his Twitter account. The signing is pending a physical.
Joyce, 32, is coming off one of the best offensive seasons of his career with an eye-popping .403 on base percentage and 20.1 percent walk rate with the Pittsburgh Pirates, albeit in just 293 plate appearances. Joyce’s .242/.403/.463 line was good for a 137 wRC+, mostly against righties and as a frequent pinch-hitter. He becomes an option in right field for the A’s, though advanced defensive metrics rate him below average.
Our Duncan Morrow offered some pros and cons for signing Joyce a couple of weeks ago:
He does two things: he walks and he slugs. He does them extremely well. In the immortal words of General Manager Brad Pitt, he sounds like an A already.
I shouldn't have to tell you that the rebuilding A's thrive off of signing short-term vets and trading them midseason. If Joyce is good and the team is not, he can be easily turned into prospects. More expensive, longer-term contracts – like what Josh Reddick will get, for instance – are a tougher sell on the trade market.
Even in the best-case scenario, he's a platoon player. He's been platooned pretty much all of his career, even in his prime. Only 14% of his career plate appearances have come versus lefties, and only 42 of his 293 PAs came versus lefties last year. He straight up doesn't hit lefties, and he'd need to have a platoon partner. There are some obvious candidates (Brett Eibner and Jake Smolinski come to mind), but that wastes a roster spot.
I've spent a lot of time talking about Joyce's bat – there's a reason for that. Joyce is a pure DH, and no longer really capable of playing the field. He can fake it in the corner outfield, but the team absolutely should not rely on that. With such a strong need for defense on this team already, Joyce only makes that issue worse.
For an opening move on the free agent market after missing out on Eric Thames, it’s an interesting start. The A’s have a long way to climb from their 69-win campaign, and either Joyce is the cornerstone to a quick turnaround, a ticket to a longer-term gain via future trade for teams closer to the promised land, or a relatively inexpensive write-off.