Pirates Sign Matt Joyce to Minor League Deal

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed outfielder Matt Joyce to a minor league deal. Joyce has played eight seasons in the majors, spending 2015 with the Angels, where he hit .174/.272/.291 in 93 games. Prior to that, he never had an OPS below .732 in his first seven seasons. His time in the outfield has been split almost evenly between left field and right field during his career.

Joyce suffered a concussion in late July last year and dealt with back issues in early August, spending five weeks on the disabled list. After returning in September, he was used strictly as a pinch-hitter, receiving just six plate appearances.

Joyce has hit as many as 19 homers in the majors, so he has shown power in the past. That was in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays. He followed that up with 17 homers in 2012 and 18 the next year. He is a lefty bat, who really struggled in limited chances against lefties last year, going 1-for-21. While he was never that bad in previous years, he has always performed much better against right-handed pitching, posting a .795 OPS in his career.

If the 2015 season proves to be a fluke, then the 31-year-old Joyce would be the best fourth outfielder option for the Pirates at this point. If not, he’s only there on a minor league deal, so no harm seeing what he may be able to provide.

  • In my view, they needed a 4th OF who could be a LHB off the bench. If he pans out, he fits the bill.

  • Michael Sanders
    February 18, 2016 11:29 pm

    I remember the days where a post would go up on Pirates Prospects and there would be 5-12 comments at most. Great to see the discussion and the fan base growing. 🙂

  • Who would have thought that this minor league signing would have generated this much discussion?

    I think this signing is for AAA depth in case one of the OFers in the majors is injured – even then Goebbert might get the first call up.

    As for the bench, outside of an emergency, Morse is stuck to 1B, Stewart is stuck at C, and Rogers at a corner OF spot and 1B. That leaves 2B, SS, 3B, and CF open. It also makes S-Rod and Florimon valuable since they can play those positions. (And Florimon even more valuable since he can play SS for more than a few innings.)

    People are picking on Florimon and it is easy to do since he is the worst hitting player. But a lot of teams have a limited hitting back up SS (and C for that matter). The real issue is that we needed a J-Hay utility player not an S-Rod type.

    The hope is that Hanson pushes his way to the starting 2B job mid-year. Since he could also play SS, that would push J-Hay to a strong hitting utility, S-Rod to a flexible last bench option, and Florimon off the team. If an injury then occurred Gift could offer a similar player to Florimon…

  • Ladies and Gentleman- We finally have a player whom could be-potentially- a 4th outfielder.

    • For the sake of conversation, what do you define as qualities of a 4th outfielder?

      • Good question. For me personally, what I like to see is someone whom has MLB experience, is low cost, can play defense at replacement level at his primary position, and offensively have an OPS either historically or recently at, or near the .725-.750 mark. Anything more than that, and he is probably starting, any less than that, and he is a big dropoff if needed to play for any stretch of games in the event of an injury

  • This guy’s history is what we hoped Travis Snyder would become. If he has one more year of lunchbox that would be great.

  • Joyce is an awful defender and strictly a platoon bat, even at his best, which makes him a pretty terrible 4th outfielder.

    Very limited situations where this guy can add value in that role.

    • I think he’s the 7th first baseman.

      • I should clarify that my comment was more general than specific to the Pirates.

        Travis Snider was a platoon bat that played fairly crappy defense and turned out to be very useful when Polanco was demoted, but that still only really just proves that anyone can play over their head for a month and a half. Not a smart strategy for building a roster, but it can happen.

        And in the end, there’s way, waaaaay bigger problems with this team than 4th outfielder or lefty in the pen so this is all really just something to talk about in February.

  • Is he a good quality person who can be a good influence on our younger guys whether he is in Pittsburgh or Indianapolis?

    I have been the one worried about our depth at outfield since we are one too many inside pitches away from some real problems.

  • Lambo replacement

  • Finally, the cherry on top.

  • I really like this move. No risk and the upside of one of the better left-handed bench bats in the division. At the very least, it’s outfield depth with significant Major League experience in the case of injuries.

    • Yawner of a move. I find it hard to believe that .250 hitters aren’t a dime a dozen. This guy seems to have a fairly narrow role IF he can recapture some of his prior form. If the team is going to try and focus more on speed and base running, why not give Rojas a shot? Would he really hit that much worse than this guy has for the last couple of years? Rojas doesn’t seem to have a long-term future with the Pirates anyway so not really wasting his development time if he’s on the team for defense and speed.

      • Rojas just hit .260 with crappy OBP numbers in AAA, so there’s a very real chance “giving him a shot” ends with him hitting sub .240 over a SSS and being purely a defensive bench player.

        Its not really wasting his development, but it means we roster 3 no/light hitting bench players.

        • Joyce IS already a proven light hitting roster imposter — at least that’s been his trend for the last few years. Conventional wisdom — performance for guys over 30 starts to slip. What think this almost 32-year-old is an exception to that wisdom? This team used to get beat up a bit for its preference for washed-up vets vs. younger players. If Rojas (or anyone) has speed, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who can pinch run to help this team score a few more runs?

          • You are speaking in vast generalities and making things up a bit.

            Conventional wisdom doesnt say guys start to slip at 30, but that into the 30s is regression area. No one will say “yeah, once you hit 30 you go from fine platoon hitter to total suck”.

            The team has tons of speed in the starting lineup and Pedro Florimon as a backup SS. It’d be nice to not have half the bench be focused purely on defense and speed.

            • Isn’t Rodriguez the backup SS? My point is expecting Joyce to recapture his prior glory is increasingly unlikely given 1) recent results and 2) his age.

              • No, in no world is S Rod the backup SS.

                And age is a dumb metric to use, 31 is not the “oh he’s clearly done by now” age. Thats absurd and acts like the guy is 35 and coming off clear decline. There is no age related reason to expect him to be unable to rebound from a poor year.

                If he lost his power at age 30, he’s the huge exception and not the rule.

  • What are the odds he beats Florimon out for the fifth bench spot?

    • More like Morse or Rodgers

    • Id say there’s a near 0 percent chance Florimon is left off the roster (unless its for a guy just like him, i.e. Gift). You’ve got S Rod on the infield, but no real option behind Mercer for SS. Florimon plays a solid SS (and 2B if needed) while also giving the speed to be useful as a PR.

      One of the RH 1B options should likely sweat a bit, id guess Rogers.

      • Florimon offers nothing…Kang is the secondary short stop option. If Joyce can prove himself in spring training, the question whether they should take him or Florimon is a no brainer. Joyce has a career .760 ops, Florimon is a career .557 ops. Joyce’s aberration, worst year with a .564 ops is better than Florimon’s career numbers. I understand defense comes into play here, but frankly based on watching him play in the field, I didnt see somebody who was markedly better than Mercer or Kang for that matter. To justify his role on this team, he needs to be special in the field. No errors, can make the plays that maybe our other SS’s cant make. And I dont see that from him.

        • Sorry, but thats just not true.

          Quality defense and speed arent nothing. That’d be like saying Gift offers “nothing”. A guy who plays above average SS on defense with good speed finds a home often.

          I see no evidence to support the idea that Kang is being considered as a SS. Its fair to assume his range could be a bit less, and he was already not a guy with great range.

          They need another backup IFer, and they likely prioritize a guy who can handle SS well on defense. Florimon’s speed gives him a boost in terms of flexibility. He’s not overall a great player, but his skill set gives him value to this roster.

          • Agreed, but I’d rather give Gift the spot. Maybe it’s because he’s homegrown…maybe it’s because we’ve already watched Florimon not hit…so now it’s the other guys’ turn 🙂

            • The only thing i’d argue is that Florimon’s speed gives him more value that Ngoepe

              • Plus, Florimon is out of options and Ngoepe can play at AAA so that maintains our depth – and we all know how much NH values depth. So I think the final spot goes to Florimon.

                • Please, please do not let Florimon make the opening day roster. Gift, Hanson etc. can man the spot and each has growth potential. Florimon is what he is… not worth the spot or wear and tear on the pine.

            • As was said below, i think its the speed that sways me either way.

              Both wont hit, both play very solid SS, so at this moment ill take Florimon juuuust a bit more for his speed. But i want Gift manning that spot next year for about 4 years.

            • fair enough- I’d be okay with that.

            • I think we’d likely keep Hanson on the roster as a utility man whom can play shortstop if he doesn’t suck in spring training

          • Good speed doesnt count for much if you cant get on base. Sure pinch running spots is helpful, but frankly that was the concern about Broxton. Broxton’s speed could be a real weapon for him, but he has to prove that he can hit major league pitching. I just value offense a bit more than defense. I want every spot in the lineup being able to hit.

            • Thats fair, but its not how the team feels. They’ll take a defense first backup SS to a guy who hits a bit but is not great at SS.

              For that roster spot, PGH seems comfortable in taking a defense first guy while allowing the other bench spots to be the PH types. Speed matters for a bench guy, since getting on base isnt the only way he can be put on base to help the team.

              • Rodriguez is already a no bat guy, can you have two infield backups with no bat taking up roster spots?

                • No, this is really my point. The issue with roster construction is S Rod.

                  • agreed 100% Maybe a hamstring tear is in his future or he punches something that is living and not filled with water….and gets suspended- we can only hope

            • In today’s MLB, run prevention is valued a bit more than scoring runs. The reason is quite clear, defense, like speed, don’t go into a slump.

          • …plus I doubt they will want to tax Kang’s injured leg much around the 2B bag…at least early in the year.

          • This is the reason Rodriguez coming back puzzled me. I want that spot on the roster to be able to handle short. He doesn’t appear to be that guy.

            • S Rod seems, to me, to be filling the utility role they like to have. Florimon would be the usual middle IF depth guy, S Rod the utility guy who can play multiple spots to varying degrees.

              I dont mind the Florimon part of that logic.

              • Florimon, at best is a replacement level player.

                So yes, he is “nothing”. The only reason he’s “something” to the ’16 Pirates is due to awful roster construction.

                • You can be as dramatic about it as you want, but replacement level isnt a bad thing in all situations. Id very much prefer a 2 WAR bench player, but in this real world i generally find a backup middle IFer like Florimon to be fine.

                  Florimon isnt the issue with roster construction, its paying guys like S Rod 3 million thats stupid. Have 1 defense first, speedy guy on any team and its something. Pedro Florimon type guys find jobs on plenty of smart, winning teams.

                  • You’re still using one shitty decision to justify another.

                    • Barring a team from having 5 players on the bench capable of starting, you are going to have a few options that arent overall great players. So long as their positive skill sets contribute in meaningful ways, i find no fault with it.

                      The backup SS being a light hitting, pure defense and speed guy is fine with me. You cant have 2-3 of him, but his skill set allows Hurdle options that are needed late in games. Much like we gotta have hitting from the bench, speed somewhere is needed.

                    • This is simply inefficient roster construction. Not the mark of elite teams.

                  • And I still disagree with you about replacement level not being bad in situations. That’s literally a wasted roster spot, no matter how you dress it.

                    • We disagree on it being a waste because his WAR wasnt high enough.

                      I think there are guys, on many many teams, that arent providing higher than.1-.5 WAR totals but are very much providing value to the team.

                    • “literally”

                • well said

              • S Rod would be the worst player in memory they’ve had to fill that role. We’ve had Neil Walker planned for the role, and JHay as well as Freddy Sanchez man that position. Srod just plain sucks at everything

                • Walker was never planned for a utility role, he played 6 games at a spot not called 2B from the time he was a full time ML player.

                  But S Rod does suck.

                  • ahh, you have a short memory. I myself spoke to Frank Coonelly while watching a B game in Bradenton at Pirate City the year they signed that Korean guy to be the second baseman when Neil was taking reps at second base and that was absolutely the plan that year. Probably only meaning he would play at second and third….but that was the plan

                  • Key being: S Rod does suck. AMen to that *drops the mic*

          • I have no problem with Florin in but his roster spot better not come at the expense of Rogers and I doubt it does.

            • I think its as likely Joyce doesnt make it out of ST as it is they replace Rogers. From an asset standpoint, they have more invested in Rogers than Joyce.

          • Sorry Mallorie- But Luke’s right. I can’t stand Florimon and think we need someone better, but having no shortstop on the roster is not acceptable and Kang himself hasn’t even indicated the likelihood of him being able to play shortstop again.

            • I would say that a scenario of Hanson being in the majors and Harrison sliding to 3B would be okay for me.

              Not in a full time role, but i could stomach Kang as backup SS if Harrison slides to 3B on those few days and Hanson is at 2B. You avoid S Rod totally.

              • I’d rather start Michael Morse at shortstop than play SRod there- I’m kidding…..but only half kidding

            • Goodness, what a mess of a roster they’ve backed themselves into.

          • Quality defense and speed are wonderful qualities in a starter, but a luxury in bench players. Unless you have a bona fide defensive liability like Pedro in your lineup who needs to come out when you’re ahead in the late innings, you (should) almost never need someone to go in as a defensive replacement. On the other hand, there are nearly always two or three occasions every night where you could use a productive pinch hitter.

            I know for a fact Clint disagrees with me, but I’d much rather stock my bench with quality hitters you can use every day in critical situations instead of good-glove guys who might get into a game as a defensive replacement and wind up making a play the starter he’s replacing couldn’t have made once or twice a season.

            • That got me to think, Jeff. Very well said.

            • This is true enough when evaluating the value of in-game substitutions, but that’s only part of bench players’ role. The ability to fill short and medium term holes due to injury (and make occasional starts to rest.starters) is also important, and less forgiving of defensive liabilities.

        • Sorry to say, but there’s a reasonable chance that Kang never puts any significant time at short ever again. That leg injury was huge, and he was just good enough to begin with – Hurdle compared him to Jhonny Peralta, and that was before the injury.

          • I know, its a shame. Having a power hitting short stop would have been really nice for years to come.

      • You mean 0 percent assuming no additional roster moves are made.

    • If he makes the team, I can’t see how they can have both Morse and Rogers on the bench. Sean Rodriguez would be the primary and only MI backup. Unless you want to make the argument Kang can shift over with Rogers playing third? That doesn’t sound like a great thing.

      • Rogers shouldnt play 3B more than “oh crap its the 12th inning and we are short on guys at this point”.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    February 18, 2016 10:03 am

    I would rather have kept Broxton and made him the 4th outfielder, but Joyce is not a bad get at this point. We don’t have many other decent options, other than Garcia who is just too raw yet.
    It wasn’t long ago that Joyce put up pretty strong numbers in TB and earned a payday with the Angels. I don’t know what happened to him out there, as he had a horrid season. He has been a pretty good hitter for most of his career, I know nothing about his OF glove however.
    Obviously very low risk – ML deal – so, why not? Actually, I’m a little surprised he was still floating around unsigned….

    • Defense is pretty poor, not a guy that’s going in late in games for the glove work. More of a PHer i would assume, though RF could help his defensive issues if he just plays deep and comes in on everything.

      • Yeah I think he would be fine in right at PNC but not a great defensive option but I like this move.

        • For the price, i like the upside. He had a weird year last year (hard hit rate wasnt terrible, walk rate went down really suddenly, etc), but his age and history dont suggest he totally fell off the planet for good on offense.

          Not a major move, but decent depth going into ST to see whats left in the tank.

        • He averaged over 2 WAR for 5 years…to get a 31 year old not far removed from that for a minor league deal is great. You have a guy who turns 32 in August playing for the chance at a decent deal or maybe a 2 year deal to give him career stability up to getting his 10 years of service in. I would think he knows all of this and is a very motivated player…plus signing with a good team and still having a chance to play a decent amount as a 4th OF or in case of injury has to be enticing.

          • If he can even hit .240-.250 and his power returns, he will be a steal. Before last year’s mess he had a career .788 OPS and solid .346 OBP. Also has 30 plus post season AB albeit poor ones.

      • SufferinBuccotash
        February 18, 2016 11:52 am

        Why would you ever put in a defensive replacement for Marte, McCutchen or Polanco?

        • Poorly phrased i suppose.

          You’d likely not want him to be the guy who takes over in a situation where you maybe PH for Polanco against a LHP and need someone in RF.

          • You aren’t going to see many situations where polanco is pinch hit for a lefty going forward. Let me rephrase that- I don’t personally think you are going to see many situations where Polanco is pinch hit for, with a left on the mound.

      • We don’t need late inning outfield defense- we need someone whom can play the outfield better than SRod, JHay, or Morse- Joyce fills that need.

        • I see no proof that Joyce is clearly a better OFer than Harrison.

          That, to me, sounds like you’ve simply seen more of one set of guys and assume Joyce is better. Joyce is bad.

          • You won’t see any proof because any defensive stats with significance would itself require more outfield playing time than Harrison has had. It stands to reason based solely on logic that a player whom has played 800 plus games at a position in the major leagues, is going to be better than someone whom has played less than 50, including the minor leagues, in the past 10 years. That being said, if you give me any examples to prove your point based on said experienced player having a catastrophic injury, being 40 years old, or gaining 40+ pounds, I’m going to ignore it.

    • The Bucco’s have two left handed bats. Might be good lefty off the bench.

    • Its a low risk move, but I like it. Sounds like he had health issues last year. His track record is consistent. He’s always around a .750 ops guy. If he get back to his old form, he could be a really solid bench guy.

    • I liked Broxton too. You have to wonder what the plan is for Rogers. I guess they ditch Morse and his contract at some point and go with Rogers/and the dreadlocks guy.

  • I like it. Was surprised to see we were able to get him on a minor league deal when I first saw the headline as I thought he had a decent track record of success. Then I clicked the link and saw last year’s numbers. Even so, I think he’s an upgrade over the current crop of candidates for fourth OF.

    • Bet you will see Pedro sign one also. Too many players chasing too few slots. Those guys who didn’t sign their QO may regret it.

      • Howie already is.

        The general disinterest in him, Fowler, and Desmond really has me scratching my head. I guess the market is shifting and teams are finding their draft picks more desireable than second-tier FAs.

        Well, unless you’re Baltimore…

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