OAKLAND, Calif. — Matt Joyce hopes to play more regularly again in his new role with the Oakland Athletics, who needed a new outfielder to fill a big void and put him high on their off-season list.
The versatile Joyce reached agreement on an $11 million, two-year contract Wednesday after passing a physical.
"Obviously the biggest thing that was kind of noticed for me was how interested they were and the opportunity to get substantial playing time again coming from the situations that I was in last year," Joyce said. "We're really pumped and excited for the whole opportunity and how it worked out."
The 32-year-old journeyman has played 140 games in each of three of the last four seasons, batting .242 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs this year for Pittsburgh. A regular pinch hitter, he started 30 games in right field and is likely to be a regular against right-handed hitting with a possible platoon role with Mark Canha.
Joyce will earn $5 million in 2017 and $6 million the following season. Oakland dealt right fielder Josh Reddick to the Dodgers at the trade deadline and then sent Coco Crisp back to his former Cleveland club.
Joyce will play for his fifth major league team as he begins his 10th season. The security means a lot for Joyce as he prepares for the birth of his first child.
"It was obviously the perfect fit," Joyce said. "It was a great fit for the kind of player I am and the kind of organization Oakland is. It's a good opportunity with a two-year deal on the table with a lot of security and the chance to play a lot is huge for me."
At 69-83, the A's responded from losing 10 of 11 to win their final two games at Seattle and finish with one more victory than a year ago. But they finished in fifth place and at the bottom of the AL West for the second straight season — another year of injuries and big-name departures.
Their budget could tighten in the future, too. A person familiar with Major League Baseball's tentative new labour deal said the A's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 per cent next year, 50 per cent in 2018, 25 per cent in 2019 and then phased out as part of the five-year agreement reached Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.
One of general manager David Forst's first calls this off-season was to Joyce's agent, Seth Levinson.
"I told him I thought Matt would be a good fit. We made no secret of the fact that we were out there looking for outfielders," Forst said. "He's a guy who has played in the American League, spent a year in the American League West, he's familiar with everything here. He has a really consistent track record of hitting right-handed pitching."
While Forst envisions Joyce as a regular against righty pitchers, Oakland's brass also took notice of his adjustments and progress hitting lefties last season. For a club that puts value in walks and on-base percentage, his patience at the plate was another important factor.
The A's are still actively looking for a centre fielder and might add at the corner outfield spots, too, Forst said.
Catcher Stephen Vogt will be a familiar face for Joyce as they were teammates in 2012 with Tampa Bay.
"I'm excited to have Matt here!" Vogt wrote in a text message. "He was a good friend and teammate and happy to be playing with him again. He is a smart and great hitter with one of the smoothest swings in baseball. We are going to learn a lot from him."