Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce bring different skills to new A's outfield

Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce bring different skills to new A's outfield

MESA, Ariz. — Two-thirds of the A’s new outfield arrived from Connecticut and reported to camp Thursday, and both players were thrilled to reach their destination.

For Matt Joyce, the Arizona sunshine was welcome after two feet of snow dumped over the past 10 days at his home near Hartford. He flew cross-country with his wife, Brittany, 1-month-old daughter Kensington and their three dogs.

“My wife asked me this morning, ‘So is this like a first day of school?’ And I kind of thought about it. It is,” said Joyce, who signed a two-year deal with Oakland in November. “You’re trying to meet new people and remembering names and faces.”

No sooner had Rajai Davis set foot in Hohokam Stadium that he donned his A’s cap and green A’s jersey. A resident of East Lyme, Conn., Davis is excited to be back for a second stint with Oakland after making a memorable run to last year’s World Series with the Cleveland Indians.

“He had his cap and his jersey on, and a pair of slacks and some dress shoes. I said, ‘Did you come in here like that?’” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s excited about being here. That’s the type of guys we need here.”

Both players are being counted on to boost the A’s offense, though in different ways.

Davis, signed to a one-year $6 million deal, led the American League with 43 stolen bases last season and hit a dramatic Game 7 homer in the World Series. He’ll take over center field and be the A’s new leadoff man, and his speed and aggressive base running is welcome for an Oakland team that finished last in the league in runs and next-to-last in steals last season.

The 36-year-old Davis, who also played with Oakland from 2008-10, expressed excitement to work again with Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who drops in as a guest instructor periodically with the A’s. Henderson passed on some base running knowledge that Davis took with him from Oakland as he moved on to the Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers and Indians.

One message was quite simple.

“Rickey told me to go, so I went,” Davis said. “I started stealing bases.”

The left-handed hitting Joyce, whose two-year deal is worth $11 million, will play right field against right-handed starters, likely platooning with Mark Canha. He’s a .242 career hitter with 106 homers over nine big league seasons. Last season, he excelled off the bench with the Pirates, leading the majors in pinch-hit RBI (15) and drawing a Major League-record 21 walks in the pinch.

A’s catcher Stephen Vogt credits Joyce for helping him develop his hitting approach when both were in the Tampa Bay organization.

The A’s believe Joyce will fit in well on a roster that goes heavy on platoons and mixes and matches the lineup on a daily basis.

“He’s another guy that’s used to (a platoon role),” Melvin said. “I don’t know that he’s ever happy about that. But the guys that are used to that and know how the system works, it’s easier for them to acclimate and easier for them to prepare.”

Davis joked that he and A’s left fielder Khris Davis are the new Bash Brothers.

Melvin’s response: “I’m OK with him hitting a single every now and then too. He can turn it into a triple.”

Bigger than baseball: Piscotty reflects on homecoming in trade to A's


Bigger than baseball: Piscotty reflects on homecoming in trade to A's

He’ll be playing in front of his family and hometown fans, in the ballpark he grew up going to as a kid.

Stephen Piscotty is fully aware that not many major leaguers get to do this, but his trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the A’s means so much more on a deeper level.

The Pleasanton native will get to play in front of his mother, Gretchen, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, in May.

It was a difficult and emotional 2017 season for Piscotty, a 26-year-old outfielder who left the Cardinals for a period to be with his family and also dealt with two stints on the disabled list. He struggled to a .235 batting average after a 22-homer, 85-RBI season in 2016.

He admits how difficult it was to concentrate on baseball, with his thoughts drifting back to the Bay Area and his Mom. Piscotty expressed gratitude to the Cardinals for their treatment of him during his tough time and for their efforts in orchestrating a trade that brought him home.

The A’s sent minor league infielders Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock to St. Louis in a deal that was finalized Thursday.

“We’re pretty emotionally tied to that organization,” Piscotty said of the Cardinals. “It chokes me up a little bit. But family obviously comes first, and sometimes some things are more important than baseball. With this opportunity here, it’s just a great combination of family and baseball. … A lot of good is going to come out of it.”

Piscotty and his brothers, Austin and Nick, grew up going to the Coliseum, as his father, Mike, has been an A’s season ticket holder for more than two decades. In May, their tight-knit family was rocked by news of Gretchen’s diagnosis.

“I remember kind of thinking ‘OK, they diagnosed it a certain way but it’s gonna turn out to be something else,” Piscotty said. “I didn’t want to believe it. I kept playing for a couple days, but I was so distracted, I couldn’t focus. I really didn’t care about what was happening on the field.”

Piscotty talked with manager Mike Matheny, hitting coach John Mabry and others.

“They were like, ‘You need to go home,’ and it was the right decision,” Piscotty said. “… It was a roller coaster year. I got sent down (to the minors), but I learned a lot. I’m gonna tap into some of those experiences.”

The A’s feel they’re getting an athletic corner outfielder about to reach his prime. Piscotty inked a six-year $33.5 million before the 2017 season, so he’s locked up at an affordable rate moving forward.

Piscotty has played mostly right field, but he and new teammate Matt Joyce can handle either corner spot.

Though the A’s made the trade primarily for baseball purposes, general manager David Forst added that “it’s wonderful for his family, and hopefully it will have given him and his family some peace of mind.”

Piscotty got news of the trade while in Pebble Beach with friends for a golf trip that had been a long time in the planning. Team orthopedist Dr. Will Workman actually made the drive to Pebble to administer Piscotty’s physical — at a local Airbnb property — so the A’s and Cardinals could finalize the trade.

Piscotty lives in Pleasanton in the offseason, but the family recently made a trip to St. Louis and saw the Budweiser Clydesdales. Gretchen loves horses.

Piscotty is optimistic his mother will be able to get out to the Coliseum to see him play. He credits his father, who has “worked his tail off” to take care of insurance needs and medications for Gretchen.

“We’re in a good place,” Stephen said. “We’re at a point where we’ve got things pretty dialed in and we can move around and go places.”

The support has poured in from St. Louis and the Bay Area. A’s president Dave Kaval, responding to a fan on Twitter, said the team will donate some of the proceeds from Piscotty jersey sales to ALS research.

“I wish I didn’t need all of their support, but it’s nice to have it,” Gretchen Piscotty told the Bay Area News Group.

Stephen, who grew up idolizing Tim Hudson and Mark McGwire, is excited to wear green and gold. Getting to spend more time with his mother provides a different kind of lift.

“That will give me a lot of comfort and peace of mind knowing I’m close.”

A's land Piscotty without giving up any of their top prospects


A's land Piscotty without giving up any of their top prospects

The A’s finalized their trade for St. Louis outfielder Stephen Piscotty, sending two minor league infield prospects to the Cardinals in return.

Shortstop Yairo Munoz and second baseman Max Schrock were ranked 13th and 17th, respectively, on the A’s current list of prospects by

Both have upside but it’s fair to say Oakland pulled off this deal for a starting outfielder without giving up any of the premium guys in their farm system. A quick rundown on each prospect:

Munoz, 22, hit .300 with 13 homers, 68 RBI and 22 stolen bases last year split time between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. His raw talent and all-around tools made him an intriguing prospect. Munoz primarily is a shortstop but bounced all around the infield last season. The A’s even experimented with him in center field, and it would have been interesting to see if Munoz could have emerged as a possibility in center at the major league level eventually.

But with prospects climbing through the system such as shortstop Jorge Mateo, third baseman Sheldon Neuse and, over at second base, top prospect Franklin Barreto — not to mention shortstop Richie Martin, a former first-round pick whose hitting has held him back thus far — the A’s appear to have dealt from depth in trading Munoz.

Schrock, 23, was acquired in August 2016 from the Washington Nationals for reliever Marc Rzepczynski. He hit .321 for Midland last season and made the Texas League Midseason and Postseason All-Star teams. He’s an offense-first second baseman who impressed with his all-around approach and knowledge of the strike zone. A’s manager Bob Melvin praised Schrock in his first look at him last spring in major league camp. At 5-foot-8, he’s the type of player that naturally will get overlooked when compared to other more highly touted guys in a farm system.

The A’s just dealt another second baseman from their system in Joey Wendle earlier in the week. But with Barreto considered the A’s second baseman of the future, and Chad Pinder available to handle second as well being starter Jed Lowrie, Oakland was in good enough shape depth-wise to deal Schrock.

Interesting to note: Thursday’s trade was the first between the A’s and Cardinals since 2009, the season Oakland shipped Matt Holliday to St. Louis after a disappointing first half of the season. Since the 2014 trade deadline, the A’s have swung trades with 24 of the other 29 teams in the majors.