With less than a week to go until players report to spring training, another name has come off of the market.
Free agent outfielder Matt Joyce announced via Twitter that he had signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians. According to reports in the Associated Press, the deal includes an invitation to spring training and is pending a physical. If he is added to the Indians’ 40-man roster, he will receive a $1.25 million salary while in the Majors and he could earn an additional $500,000 in bonuses.
The Indians had not formally announced the signing at the time of this story.
The 34-year-old left-handed hitter spent the last two seasons in Oakland with the Athletics. After a productive 2017 season, when he hit .243 with a .335 on-base percentage and career highs in doubles (33) and homers (25), his numbers dipped last season. He continued walking at a high rate, leading to a .322 OBP, but he hit just .208 in 83 games with nine doubles, seven homers, and 15 RBI. He missed a chunk of time during the season with a lumbar strain, missing two and a half weeks in June before a second trip to the disabled list cost him nearly two months of action.
Joyce has spent the past eleven years in the Majors. During the best stretch of his career, he was a regular corner outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays and was named an All-Star during the 2011 campaign. He spent six seasons with the Rays, putting up a .250/.342/.435 slash in 633 games with 76 home runs and 280 RBI.
He began his career in Detroit before being dealt to Tampa for Edwin Jackson in 2008. He was traded after the 2014 season to the Los Angeles Angels and spent 2016 with the Pittsburgh Pirates before his stint with the A’s over the last two years.
Joyce has a history of being a good character guy and clubhouse leader, something that the Indians have prioritized over the year. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reiterated the qualities of Joyce on her own Twitter account on Friday, noting that Joyce “meant more to the A’s clubhouse last year than many realize.”
Joyce joins an outfield mix with more questions than answers after the Indians subtracted Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai Davis, and Brandon Guyer in the offseason. Cleveland returns a healthy Leonys Martin, along with Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin. Newer additions Jordan Luplow (acquired from the Pirates this offseason) and Jake Bauers (dealt from Tampa Bay in the Edwin Encarnacion/Carlos Santana three-team deal with Seattle) will also be in the mix, along with Oscar Mercado, who came to Cleveland last July in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. Bradley Zimmer will also be in the equation at some point, but his status is unknown while still working his way back from midseason shoulder surgery.
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