San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has maintained that he’s wanted to add several right-handed hitting outfield hands to the mix this spring.
With both now-healthy Steven Duggar in center and newcomer Gerardo Parra in right seemingly headed for significant roles, the Giants have only Mac Williamson and Cameron Maybin — who has had a sluggish (and ignominious) spring — as potentially regular right-handed bats in the outfield. Beyond that, they have three left-handed infielders, and three backup infielders who are stronger hitting from the left side.
Zaidi added another left-handed hitter to the lackluster outfield mix on Wednesday in the person of Matt Joyce, the former Oakland Athletics left fielder who recently released by the Cleveland Indians. Joyce, 34, hit .208 last season for the A’s, and was hitting just .185 with Cleveland in 30 spring plate appearances, with no extra-base hits.
Joyce, who joins the Giants on a minor league contract as a non-roster invitee, was plagued by back issues in 2018, and hit just seven home runs in plate appearances over 83 games. His back is now healthy, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters in Scottsdale.
Bochy added that Joyce is “in the mix” to make the Opening Day roster.
In 2017, Joyce hit 25 home runs and 33 doubles in 141 games with a 118 OPS+ and was the prototypical A’s on-base machine, drawing walks in 12 percent of his plate appearances to fuel a healthy .335 on-base percentage. In 2016, he hit .242 with Pittsburgh, but had a .403 on-base percentage, walking 62 times in 493 plate appearances. A career .240 hitter, Joyce has had seven seasons of double-digit home runs, including four with Tampa Bay.
Defensively, Joyce can play all three outfield positions, but is best in left, with a career 5 defensive runs saved above average. Since Barry Bonds retired, the Giants have had 11 different Opening Day starting left fielders, and may wind up going with a platoon there, if nobody separates themselves. Austin Slater, who saw big league action for the second straight year last season, is hitting .185. Chris Shaw, who was sent to minor league camp a week ago, hit .217 in big league spring training. Parra has played best among left fielders, hitting .257.
Note: The Giants began play after print deadline. This story will be updated online with Joyce’s stats, should he play.