The Edwin Jackson/Matt Joyce trade

I’ve said a lot of good things about Dave Dombrowski this week, who made moves I liked in picking up Gerald Laird and Adam Everett to fill holes without surrendering much talent expending a lot of payroll. Well, yesterday, he took all that good will and gave it right back, making a ridiculously bad trade with Tampa Bay, sending outfielder Matt Joyce to the Rays for RHP Edwin Jackson.

We’ll start with Jackson – odds are that Dombrowski sees him as a young, high upside hurler who just had a breakthrough season and established himself as an innings eater at worst with potential to become a mid-rotation starter. After all, he threw 180 innings, posted a 4.42 ERA, just turned 25 years old, throws hard, and was considered a top prospect not too long ago.

However, Jackson didn’t have any kind of breakout year – he’s the same pitcher he’s always been. His FIP in 2007 was 4.90. His FIP in 2008 was 4.88. He cut his BB% down by over a full walk per game, but his strikeout rate fell from 7.16 to 5.30, canceling out the effect of the better command. The huge drop in ERA was thanks to the significantly improved defense the Rays put behind him (.351 BABIP in ’07, .301 in ’08) and some good luck stranding runners. The Rays defense isn’t going with him to Detroit, and the luck probably won’t either.

Jackson’s not useless – Marcel thinks he’ll put up a 4.64 FIP over 160 innings next year, so that makes him about +5 runs worse than an average pitcher and +15 runs better than a replacement level version. As a #5 starter, he’s not a problem, but that’s all he is.

To get Jackson, the Tigers parted with Matt Joyce, one of the few promising young players they had left in the organization. I generally don’t go for one for one comparisons that often, but in this case, the Jayson Werth comp works so well that I feel obligated to put it out there. Joyce is, essentially, a left-handed Werth – a guy who can play very good defense in a corner OF spot, has gap power and will walk occasionally, but whose lower contact rate will always keep his average down. Depending on how well he adjusts to being a full time player, the Rays should expect something between .260/.320/.430 and .270/.340/.470.

That makes Joyce something like a +2 win outfielder right now, and if he hits the high side of that projection, it’s more like +2.5 to +3 wins. Joyce is a better player, right now, than Jackson. He’s also under team control for two extra years and isn’t arb. eligible after the 2009 season as Jackson will be.

For the Rays, this is a huge win – they solve their right field issue with a quality, low cost player that easily gives them the game’s best defensive outfield. A Crawford/Upton/Joyce trio is going to be staggeringly good at chasing down balls in the gap. To boot, they open up a spot in the rotation for David Price, so they’re almost certainly going to be upgrading their rotation simultaneously.

The Rays get a lot better, while the Tigers shuffle pieces around and cost themselves some flexibility. Thumps up for Tampa, and a big thumbs down for Detroit.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Jason Collette
15 years ago

Adding Joyce’s talents plus losing Jackson’s contributions is a double-win for the Rays. I know some in the front office have been big fans of Joyce and were thrilled to get him for such a low price.

I’m looking forward to seeing a Crawford/Upton/Joyce defensive outfield and I bet a lot of the Rays pitchers are as well.