In 2008, many expected the Detroit Tigers to be one of the best teams in all of MLB, but it would be an understatement to say that things did not work out exactly as planned. A young left-handed hitting outfielder named Matt Joyce was one of only a few bright spots during the Tigers’ dismal 2008 campaign, and he showed many flashes of extra-base power by hitting 12 home runs, 16 doubles and three triples in just 92 games. However, Joyce was quickly traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for Edwin Jackson the subsequent offseason.
Joyce has gone on to have a decent but unremarkable run with the Rays over the past five years. His best season came back in 2011 when he made an All-Star team and ended the season with a slash line of .277/.347/.478 with 19 home runs and 75 RBIs. In the two seasons since, his batting average has tailed off quite a bit, but he is still good for close to 20 home runs and 50-60 RBIs over the course of a 162-game season.
The Rays appeared to be willing to move Joyce this past offseason, as they attempted to trade him to the New York Mets for first baseman Ike Davis, but the Mets were left unimpressed by the Rays’ offer. The question is whether or not the Rays are still willing to deal the now 29-year-old Joyce, and if so, would the Tigers perhaps be interested in a reunion with him?
Some may argue that there are better options, but the Tigers should definitely add Joyce to the list of players they are at least considering to fill the void that has been created by the injury to Andy Dirks. Joyce, as a matter of fact, could actually be a rather solid candidate to platoon with Rajai Davis in left field.
The dip in Joyce’s batting average over the past two seasons can easily be explained by his struggles against left-handed pitching. Joyce has a career .260 batting average against right-handed pitching but a mere .194 average against LHP, and 71 of his 79 career home runs have come against right-handed pitching. The right-handed Davis, on the other hand, performs much better against lefties, therefore he and Joyce could in fact make a formidable duo in left field.
The Tigers would probably be able to acquire Joyce at a relatively low cost, and he would give the Tigers a solid weapon against RHP who could help out in left field until Dirks returns. Joyce also remains under team control until 2016, so he could also figure into the Tigers’ plans for next season if the organization decides to allow Torii Hunter to walk at the end of 2014. The Tigers could certainly do a lot worse than trading for Joyce.