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Detroit Tigers: Matt Joyce as a Bench Option

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Apr 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Matt Joyce (17) receives congratulations from teammates after scoring in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Matt Joyce (17) receives congratulations from teammates after scoring in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers fans have seen a steady on-field improvement as of late. The Tigers will enter Monday a season-best six games over .500. However, the team isn’t perfect, and one area of need is the bench.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila’s predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, made a brilliant trade in 2008, sending young outfielder Matt Joyce to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Joyce would go on to post solid numbers with the Rays, even making the All-Star team in 2011, but Jackson turned out to be a much better asset for Detroit.

Dombrowski would later include him in the now-famous three-team deal that saw the Tigers acquire Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke for Jackson and Curtis Granderson.

Despite only playing one season in Detroit, it may be time for the Tigers to bring Joyce back to Motown.

The Tigers’ bullpen looks finally looks settled, while the rotation is showing signs of improvement. That leaves the bench as the one key area of need. As of now, the bench consists of Andrew Romine, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles.

Romine is valued for his defense and ability to play multiple positons—not to mention his pinch-running abilities. Saltalamacchia is valued for providing an impact in pinch-hitting situations as well as spot starts.

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Mike Aviles was supposed to bring a mix of all those things to the Tigers, but so far he hasn’t.

The utility player has so far appeared in 43 games, logging six RBI, two stolen bases, two doubles and a home run. Additionally, Aviles’ batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all sit below .270. He’s only hitting .218 this year.

What’s more, the veteran, who has generally played as an infielder, has struggled at times defensively in the outfield, grading out poorly in a number of defensive metrics.

Acquiring a natural outfielder like Joyce to pair with Steven Moya could improve the Tigers drastically. 

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After a rough 2015 season in Anaheim, Joyce has bounced back nicely with the Pirates, hitting .299 with a .423 on-base percentage and a .581 slugging percentage in 68 games. He’s also added 27 RBI, 23 runs scored, eight home runs and seven doubles.

Joyce won’t win you a Gold Glove in the outfield, but he’s played regularly in both corner spots for the past nine seasons. The former Tampa Bay Ray also would be a significant offensive upgrade to Aviles. Even when J.D. Martinez returns, Joyce could still stay with the team as a pinch-hitting alternative to Moya and Saltalamacchia.

Having a deep bench can do wonders in the playoffs, and Joyce would give the Tigers just that. In 37 at-bats as a pinch hitter this season, the outfielder is hitting a scathing .357 batting average, a .514 on-base percentage, four home runs and 13 RBI.

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Additionally, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Pittsburgh move some of the team’s pieces at the deadline. While the Pirates are an extremely talented team, they are already 10.5 games out of first place behind the Chicago Cubs. Joyce is already 31 and on a one-year contract, and would fit perfectly on the Detroit Tigers as an added outfield option.

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