In the 2011 season, the A’s were terrible. A Bob Melvin takeover gave fans hope and the dugout life, but there was no reason to think 2012 would be a competitive year. The A’s had glaring holes across the diamond.
At least two of those holes were in the outfield. So what did the A’s do? Nothing at all until the end of December, when they ... traded away their only outfielder, Ryan Sweeney (it worked out though, because they got Josh Reddick back). A week later they re-signed Coco Crisp, who remained an awesome Athletic.
After signing Crisp, the A’s acquired Seth Smith, and soon after they signed left-fielder Jonny Gomes. Gomes was brought on in late January to mash lefties (in a platoon with Smith) and provide a veteran presence. An entire outfield assembled in the span of one month!
So what did the A’s do next? They jumped on the best deal on the market, it turned out, signing Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. That went ok too!
While the market is vastly different now (there are no more hidden Cuban studs ready to bust down MLB) the point stands: the A’s are often unpredictable in the offseason, and certain moves don’t preclude anything in the future. The A's adjust on the fly and their first signing is unlikely to be their last.
This isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the A’s have said they’re not done themselves.
A's GM David Forst is seeking a center fielder, considering trade, free agency.— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) November 30, 2016
It’s still worth noting.
Next steps after Joyce
With Joyce, there are options. The A’s are clearly OK with him in right which doesn’t exactly help a historically bad defense, but his platoon nature makes everything a little more fluid. Should the A’s stumble into a deal with a better defensive rightfielder, Joyce would make a fine DH. Where exactly he plays depends on how the offseason shakes out from here.
The A’s payroll currently sits around the $70 million dollar mark, meaning there’s probably about $10-15 million left to spend before the season. That doesn’t factor in some likely changes. Yonder Alonso represents a possible non-tender, who knows what will happen with Jed Lowrie or Jon Axford, among others.
Where will the A’s turn next? The free agent market is more meh than it was a week ago, and the obvious pieces just aren’t there to turn this ship around. That’s a reason you should feel good about the Joyce signing: there aren’t blue chip guys within the A’s budget. Taking chances on lottery ticket types like Joyce make sense when there aren't realistic alternatives. And if he flops? You’re on the hook for pennies in what was going to be a down year anyway. Whatever.
Finding the remaining pieces of the roster won’t be easy, but Joyce isn’t a hindrance for anything the A’s would want to do. A better rightfielder magically presents himself? Great, stick Joyce at DH. He was fantastic as a bench bat last year so if the A’s do manage to find multiple outfielders (the most likely source would be via cloning), Joyce can still be a valuable addition.
Of course, Joyce could always be terrible. He was just two seasons back, and the Pirates never entrusted him with full time work. But the worst case scenario of a low money signing isn't hugely impactful, it doesn't prevent other signings or deals. The upside is palpable and while there's risk, but the potential reward is worth it.
Welcome to the A's, Matt Joyce.