Matt Joyce – 32 years old
2016: Pittsburgh Pirates
Matt Joyce’s one-year, $1 million free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates last offseason turned out to be one of baseball’s best small deals. With it, the veteran Joyce has set himself up for a much nicer salary.
Blue Jays fans will be familiar with Joyce from his time with the Tampa Bay Rays from 2009 to 2014. Over the past three seasons, however, Joyce has been three different versions of himself.
2014: Joyce’s final season in Tampa Bay may represent his truest value in terms of what teams can expect from their investment. His nine home runs that season represent the bottom end of his realistic power potential (10-to-16 home runs), but his very strong on-base tool helped to balloon his offensive value.
2015: After being dealt from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles in exchange for reliever Kevin Jepsen, Joyce hit a wall. A BABIP of just .215 certainly didn’t help, but his Wins Above Replacement quickly plummeted from 1.7 the year prior to an ugly -1.4.
2016: With Pittsburgh, Joyce became an on-base machine with a .403 OBP. One of the least-discussed values of an Encarnacion or Bautista is their ability to reach base when they’re not hitting for power, which is a tool Joyce certainly offers. This resulted in a 1.3 WAR and his home run power was present enough.
It’s extremely unlikely that Joyce’s on-base percentage from 2016 maintains, of course, and for the Blue Jays, ideally a speed of defensive tool accompanies that. With Joyce, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Joyce had an outlier season of 13 stolen bases in 2011 but otherwise will sit around five per season. He’s graded out negatively in Base Running Runs Above Average the past two seasons, as well, so there is little value to be found there.
In the field, Joyce has graded out better in left field than in right over his career. He did post some positive UZR seasons earlier in his career, but his cumulative outfield UZRs from the past two seasons have come in at -3.5 and -6.9.
Up Next: The former Gold Glover from Seattle