ANAHEIM — The Los Angeles Angels acquired outfielder Matt Joyce from the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday in exchange for right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen.
The Angels have big plans for Joyce, envisioning him as their primary designated hitter and possible No. 2 hitter, which would allow AL MVP Mike Trout to hit third in front of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Joyce's left-handed bat and playing experience at both corner outfield spots also should allow Hamilton to spend more games as a designated hitter.
“He gives us a lot of flexibility and makes us a deeper and more balanced team,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “We just felt like this was an opportunity for us to build a deeper and well-balanced lineup for 2015, and continue to move in such a way that we feel like we're making the team better.”
Joyce batted .254 with nine homers and 52 RBIs last season, his seventh in the majors and sixth with Tampa Bay. The 2011 All-Star and Tampa native has 88 homers and 313 RBIs in his career, but knew he might be headed for a move from the retooling Rays.
“I was a little surprised that I went to the Angels, just because I think there were some teams they were talking about, but I don't think it could've worked out any better for me personally,” Joyce said. “I'm excited to come to a great city.”
Dipoto expects Joyce to supplant youngster C.J. Cron, who batted .256 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs while taking over late in his first major league season as the Angels' regular designated hitter. The Angels are hoping a combination of several players will fill the offensive void left by Howie Kendrick, who was traded to the Dodgers for pitching prospect Andrew Heaney.
The Angels gave up a key piece of their bullpen to acquire Joyce.
Jepsen was the Angels' seventh-inning specialist last season, his seventh with the club. He established career bests with 65 innings pitched, 75 strikeouts and a 2.63 ERA, making 65 scoreless appearances — third-most in the majors.
Dipoto envisions Mike Morin, Cory Rasmus, Vinnie Pestano and Fernando Salas taking on Jepsen's responsibilities in the Angels' fairly deep bullpen.
Jepsen was drafted by the then-Anaheim Angels in 2002, ranking alongside fellow draftee Erick Aybar as the longest-tenured Angels. Jepsen ranks fifth in franchise history with 315 appearances, becoming one of just four relievers to pitch at least seven seasons with the Angels.
Joyce and Jepsen are both arbitration-eligible this winter. Joyce could hit free agency after the 2015 season, while Jepsen has another arbitration year left.