The Cleveland Indians have added veteran outfielder Matt Joyce on a minor league deal as the start of the baseball season draws near.
Veteran outfielder Matt Joyce announced this morning via his Twitter account that he has agreed to sign with the Cleveland Indians. It’s a minor league deal for the 34-year left-handed hitter, which will include an invite to big league camp.
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Joyce is not the type of outfielder that Tribe fans are likely to get excited about but he has proven to be very valuable as a part-time bat in the past. 2018 was pretty terrible for him as he struggled with injury but in 2017 with the Athletics, he did post a 116 wRC+ and 2.7 fWAR with 25 home runs in 141 games and 544 plate appearances. In 2016 with the Pirates, he was arguably better when used in a part-time platoon role with the Pirates when he posted a 146 wRC+ and a .403 OBP.
Since it’s a minor league deal there is no guarantee Joyce makes the big league club but assuming he gets healthy he would appear to be an upgrade in RF, at least as a platoon. He has a career .250/.351/.451 batting line versus right-handed pitching. That’s good for a .802 OPS and 121 wRC+. Against southpaws, though he has hit a measly .184/.267/.306, which is a .573 OPS and 61 wRC+. He could form a decent platoon in theory with a guy like Jordan Luplow or Greg Allen in a corner outfield spot.
Joyce’s main calling card is his ability to draw walks. He has a career 12.5-percent walk rate and posted a 10-percent walk rate as recently as 2016 with the Pirates. Against righties, he has shown the ability to hit for some power as well (career .201 ISO). He is an average defender posting some positive and negative marks in both left and right field in his career. At his age, he may be better suited for a designated hitter role but he’s better than Melky Cabrera was in right and probably on par (or better) than Michael Brantley was in left field last year.
Matt Joyce is definitely not a player that will excite the average fan, but he does have some upside. On a minor league deal, there is no risk either. He’ll have to force his way onto the roster similar to how Cabrera did a year ago. Joyce provides a decent veteran option in case guys like Tyler Naquin, Jake Bauers, Allen and/or Luplow struggle early. A good move by the Cleveland Indians, even if an underwhelming one.