The A's, hardly shy in expressing their desire for outfield help this winter, have secured a corner platoon piece in veteran Matt Joyce, who inked a two-year, $11 million deal with the club on Wednesday.
Joyce will earn $5 million in 2017, and $6 million in '18, per sources.
The outfield search doesn't stop there, with a center fielder yet to be found, but Joyce immediately bolsters a Josh Reddick-less right field, providing the A's a proven left-handed bat with the kind of strong plate discipline that Oakland's lineup was lacking in 2016.
A's general manager David Forst said Joyce's agent, Seth Levinson, was among his first calls when free agency opened. Joyce took note.
"Obviously the biggest thing for me was how interested they were and the opportunity to get substantial playing time," Joyce said. "For me and my family, we're really pumped and excited about the opportunity and how everything worked out. There were a couple other teams that were interested and we're really thankful and appreciative of those other teams, but for me, it was a perfect fit for the kind of player I am and the kind of organization that Oakland is."
Joyce, 32, hit .242 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs in 140 games for the Pirates last season, rebounding nicely from a dismal 2015 campaign with the Angels. Of his 293 at-bats in 2016, 251 came against right-handers; he's compiled a .803 OPS against them in his career, and Forst said "the priority is getting him as many at-bats as possible against right-handed pitching."
Joyce started 30 games in right field for the Pirates and 14 in left field, with most of his playing time coming as a pinch-hitter. He hit .220 in such situations but racked up 21 walks in 81 plate appearances and drew 59 free passes overall for a .403 on-base percentage, fourth-best in the National League among players with 250 or more plate appearances.
Oakland's collective .304 OBP ranked last in the American League.
"That goes a long way in affecting the rest of the lineup," Forst said.
The A's entered the offseason with Khris Davis as their left fielder but little certainty elsewhere in their outfield. They have in-house options in Jake Smolinski, Brett Eibner and Mark Canha, and any one of them could form a platoon with Joyce, who can also spell Davis in left field on days the 40-homer man is slotted in the designated-hitter spot. But Forst said the club will continue to seek outside upgrades, suggesting Joyce could be merely the first of several outfield additions.
Joyce was an All-Star in 2011 with the Rays, who have employed many of the same players as the A's, including Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Sam Fuld and Grant Balfour. Joyce said he spoke with Jaso ahead of signing with Oakland, hearing nothing but good things.
It seems 5-year-old Matt Joyce would also approve of the outfielder's decision. As Joyce told it Wednesday, he was at his grandmother's house in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Thanksgiving when he came across a book he made in kindergarten. Inside, he answered the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"I want to be a baseball player for the A's," Joyce said he wrote.
"I don't know if that's just fate," he said, "but I thought that was really cool."
To make room on the 40-man roster for Joyce, the A's designated infielder Rangel Ravelofor assignment. Ravelo was acquired in the December 2014 trade that sent Jeff Samardzijato the White Sox.