Rays Jump For Joyce

The Deal
With a wealth of talented young pitchers ready to push through to the big league rotation, the Rays dealt righthander Edwin Jackson to the Tigers for outfielder Matt Joyce.

Jackson, 25, had a 4.42 ERA in 183 innings in 2008, issuing 77 walks (3.8 per nine innings) while striking out 108 (5.3 per nine). In 2007, Jackson posted a 5.76 ERA with a 128-88 K-BB mark in 161 innings, and his career ERA in the big leagues is 5.15 in 456 innings of work.

One of the game’s hardest throwers, Jackson’s fastball sits in the mid-90s as a starter and touches the high-90s. He also has a slider in the mid- to high-80s, but despite his power arsenal, Jackson doesn’t miss many bats, and his command is below-average. He also doesn’t have a good changeup, leaving his arsenal as hard, hard and harder. The result has been lefthanded batters torching him to a .294/.389/.442 tune, with Jackson walking almost as many of them (138) as he has struck out (139) in his career.

The Young Player
Joyce, 24, is only one year younger than Jackson, though he’ll be under team control (five years) for longer than Jackson (three years, with his first year of arbitration eligibility coming this year).

Joyce, who hit .270/.352/.550 in 227 plate appearances with Triple-A Toledo this year, swings the bat aggressively and has a tendency to chase pitches out of the strike zone, but he has a smooth swing that produces solid-average power from the left side. Joyce hit .252/.339/.492 in 277 major league plate appearances in 2008, though 90 percent of those PAs came with the platoon advantage against righthanded pitchers. However, Joyce has not shown a large platoon split the last two seasons between Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues. Joyce currently is playing winter ball in Mexico, where he is batting .280/.352/.579 in 122 plate appearances.

Joyce is a good defensive outfielder in right field, where his instincts and reads off the bat stand out more than his average foot speed. His arm, in terms of both strength and accuracy, is another tool Joyce brings to Tampa Bay. He could step in immediately for the Rays in right field, either as an everyday player or in a platoon role.

Quick Take
The Rays trade of Jackson should rank as one of the offseason’s least surprising moves, given the way the Rays avoided using him in the post-season. With a starting rotation that already includes Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, James Shields, David Price and Andy Sonnanstine, and with Triple-A righthanders Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann and Double-A righty Jeremy Hellickson awaiting their chances, the Rays are loaded with high-caliber starting pitching.

With Jackson now in the mix, new Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp will have his handful with projects in the starting rotation. Jackson’s ERA was only slightly worse than the major league average, but he also benefited from one of the game’s best defenses and his peripherals were underwhelming at best. For the Rays, Joyce can immediately slot into right field.

The Tigers traded five years of a corner outfielder who has the potential to be at least a league-average player—possibly as early as 2009—in exchange for three years of a hard-throwing righthander who, to this point in his career, has performed like a No. 5 starter.

" Trade Central 2008