The Los Angeles Angels have agreed to a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays that will send outfielder Matt Joyce to Los Angeles, and reliever Kevin Jepsen to Tampa Bay. The Rays had been reportedly shopping Joyce for some time now.
Joyce, 30, has been in the Rays organization since 2009, and has had his fair share of ups and downs. His All-Star campaign of 2011 had many optimistic that the Rays had found themselves a budding star. Unfortunately, Joyce hasn’t been able to find any consistency at the plate, and his arbitration-driven salary was going to be more than the Rays would be willing to pay for a part-time outfielder.
“Matt was an important part of this team for the past six seasons,” Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Erik Neander said. “We appreciate his contributions to the Rays on the field, and the professionalism he brought to the ballpark.”
The Angels are getting a hard-working player with a lot of pop is his bat. If used in the right situations, Joyce can be a solid contributor. However, his inability to hit left-handed pitching and off-speed pitches in general make it tough to consider him anything more than a platoon-player. Joyce is a career .250 hitter with 88 home runs scattered over seven big league seasons. The Angels will likely use him in multiple outfield spots, and possibly even to backup Albert Pujols at first base.
Kevin Jepsen is coming off the best season of his young career. The 30-year-old posted a 2.63 ERA, while striking out 75 batters in 65 innings pitched. He will be heavily relied upon as a high-leverage reliever in a revamped Rays bullpen. His post-arbitration salary is projected at a reasonable $2.5 million, and he’ll be under team control through 2016.
This addition for Tampa Bay is especially critical following the news that closer Jake McGee underwent elbow surgery and will start next season on the DL. Until McGee returns, it will be up to Jepsen, Brad Boxberger, and Grant Balfour to carry the load. Fortunately, McGee expects to be back sooner, rather than later.