David DeJesus re-signed with the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this week for two years and $10.5 million. DeJesus will make $4.25 million in 2014, $5 million in 2015, and the Rays have an option on DeJesus for 2016 at $5 million with a $1 million buyout. He also got a $250,000 signing bonus in the contract. The deal is similar to the one DeJesus signed prior to the 2011 season with the Cubs, when he got two years and $10 million with a club option for 2014.
But DeJesus sticking around in Tampa could be bad news for another long-time Ray: outfielder Matt Joyce.
Joyce made $2.45 million in 2013 with the Rays, his first year of arbitration. He's got two more years of arbitration left, and it looks like there won't be any room for him in Tampa for the 2014 season. Desmond Jennings and Wil Myers are both pre-arb talents that are locked in to starting outfield spots next year. DeJesus is locked in for the next two years. Like DeJesus, Joyce is a lefty hitter with severe platoon splits. Unlike DeJesus, Joyce is not an above average, versatile defender. He can't play center field, and is only passable in the corners. On the other hand, DeJesus is very good in the corners, and can hold his own in center, just in case something were to happen to Desmond Jennings.
Could the Rays keep Joyce around to serve as a platoon DH? Of course they could. They did it last year with Luke Scott, who made $2.75 million to tally 291 plate appearances and log a whopping 33 innings in the field. But Joe Maddon didn't have a designated caddy for Scott last year. In fact, the player who logged the second-most plate appearances on the team at DH was Joyce, followed by late-season waiver claim Delmon Young and Swiss army knife Kelly Johnson. The platoon at the end of the year didn't even seem to be Scott and Joyce, but instead Young and Joyce. Scott only started four games at DH in the season's last two months compared to 14 for Young and 11 for Joyce.
So yes, it's certainly possible that Joyce sticks around to serve as Tampa Bay's DH. But Maddon is a guy who loves versatility and loves swapping guys in an out of various spots in the lineup. Hell, over his tenure with the Rays, the only two full-time DHs the club has had were Pat Burrell in 2009 and Johnny Damon in 2011. If Joyce is still a Ray come Spring Training, he'll probably be in Scott's role as DH by default. In fact, pairing Joyce and the free agent Young at DH could be a solid plan for 2014. But regardless of that, it looks like Joyce's days roaming the outfield in Tampa are over.
Finding a suitor for Joyce wouldn't be tough, as a 29-year old left-handed outfielder with 20 homer pop and a double digit walk rate is a solid commodity on the market. And that's why I don't think Tampa Bay is simply going to cut bait with Joyce, and instead look to trade him. They really are in a decent position with him, but the contract just given to DeJesus limits what the Rays might be able to do with him once the season begins.