New Angel in the outfield: Joyce aboard, Jepsen to Rays
Halos use 'pen depth to add option at DH, outfield while allowing Scioscia to tinker with order
ANAHEIM -- The Angels traded longtime reliever Kevin Jepsen to the Rays for outfielder Matt Joyce on Tuesday, plucking from their rich bullpen depth in order to attain more balance for their lineup.
Joyce, a left-handed hitter with experience at both corner outfield spots, will get the majority of the at-bats at designated hitter, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said on a conference call. Joyce's presence also allows Josh Hamilton to DH more frequently while letting the right-handed-hitting C.J. Cron match up mostly against opposing left-handers.
Dipoto has sporadically talked to the Rays about Joyce over the last couple of years and was finally able to make traction on a deal over the weekend.
"It was difficult for us to trade Kevin Jepsen, coming off his best year as a big leaguer and his best year as an Angel," Dipoto said. "He did a great job for us in 2014; that won't be forgotten. We just felt like this was an opportunity for us to build a deeper and more balanced lineup for 2015, and continue to move in such a way that we feel like we're making the team better."
Joyce, 30, is heading into his final year before free agency, and he is projected to make roughly $5 million in 2015. Jepsen is in his third of four arbitration years and is projected to make about $2.5 million.
Originally a second-round Draft pick by the Angels in 2002, Jepsen had a breakout year in 2014, posting a career-low 2.63 ERA and striking out a career-high 10.4 batters per nine innings in 74 appearances, most of them as a bridge to Joe Smith and Huston Street. The 30-year-old Jepsen has pitched in the fifth-most games in Angels history (315), and he is one of four relievers to spend seven or more seasons with the club (the others are Troy Percival, Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez).
Dipoto mentioned 23-year-old Mike Morin as someone who can step up in the now-vacant seventh-inning role, but also mentioned the likes of Fernando Salas, Vinnie Pestano and Cory Rasmus.
The Angels have a plethora of solid right-handed relief options.
"We feel like the bullpen was a strength going in and we had created some depth," Dipoto said, "and right now we're dealing from an area of depth to create some depth in different areas."
Joyce has batted .252/.341/.428 over the last four years, hitting 63 homers, driving in 233 runs and drawing 225 walks while averaging 136 games in that stretch. Joyce's patient approach could fit well in the No. 2 spot, which would allow Mike Trout to bat third and Albert Pujols to hit cleanup, but Dipoto will leave that for manager Mike Scisocia to figure out.
"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. Just eager to get started now."
It's been a busy offseason for the Angels, even though they have mostly stayed away from free agency.
On Nov. 5, they sent Hank Conger to the Astros for young starter Nick Tropeano and Minor League catcher Carlos Perez, then sent pitching prospect Mark Sappington to the Rays for veteran lefty Cesar Ramos.
At the Winter Meetings, they claimed left-handed power hitter Marc Krauss off waivers, traded for backup catcher Drew Butera, flipped Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers for talented starter Andrew Heaney, acquired infielder Josh Rutledge from the Rockies for pitching prospect Jairo Diaz and picked up utility infielder Taylor Featherston in the Rule 5 Draft, all while waiting to finalize a deal with Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin.
The Angels won't bring in one player who can single-handedly make up for Kendrick's production, but "I feel like Matt goes a long way towards helping that," Dipoto said.
"He protects us at either corner, he protects us at designated hitter, he protects us in the middle of the lineup against right-handed pitching, and that's an important thing."