Last week there were some reports that Tampa Bay had made outfielder Matt Joyce available in trade talks and apparently a deal between the Rays and Rangers had come to the point of exchanging medicals before it broke down. As Jon Morosi points out in his tweet linked above, Joyce is pretty comparable to Jay Bruce except of course for the contract situation. Joyce, who is 30, enters his final year of arbitration in 2015 and will become a free agent after the season while Jay Bruce has at least two more years and $24.5 million left on his deal.
Joyce was an All-Star in 2011 in a year that ended with a fWAR of 3.5, but has cooled down in the past few years becoming a low batting average corner outfielder with power who is good for about 1.8 fWAR every year. For a guy that is likely to make $4.9 million in his final year of arbitration, the Blue Jays could certainly do worse.
Although the lefty hitter hovers around .250 in the batting average department his OBP is often nearly .100 points higher thanks to a career walk-rate of nearly 12%. He has sneaky power that usually is good for about 15 home runs every year, even if sometimes he doesn't make it look too graceful:
Even though the Rays are division rivals with the Blue Jays and Joyce has been a starting outfielder for four seasons, it seems that he has a knack for providing solid value while flying under the radar. I've never really taken note of his consistency and he appears to be a prototypical Rays player in every way.
In terms of defence, Joyce is not a Gold Glove contender, although over the course of his career he's been a much better left fielder (5.2 UZR/150) than right fielder (-1.5 UZR/150) which would suit the Blue Jays situation. When compared to Bruce, it looks like Joyce provides much more consistent defence in the outfield while the Reds player is subject to wild year to year swings with much higher variance.
In looking for a replacement to Melky Cabrera in left field, a player like Matt Joyce seems to fit the bill perfectly as his contract will be rather affordable and the asking price for one year of his services will certainly be much lower than what the Reds will demand for Jay Bruce. Tampa Bay doesn't have a lot of holes at this point, but they could use a back-up catcher and likely would ask for a mid-tier prospect as well.
Joyce has pretty significant splits and has begun to face lefties very little in Tampa, meaning that an outfield platoon may still be necessary with John Mayberry Jr. That begs the question of whether Joyce is a big enough upgrade over Andy Dirks to warrant giving up players for him. The answer really depends on whether the Blue Jays are comfortable with Dirks' inconsistency or would prefer the known quantity of Matt Joyce.