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Joc Pederson is Taking His Pearls to the Desert

The Arizona Diamondbacks have been steady this offseason. After a World Series berth in 2023, the Snakes have undergone a quality blend of notable free agent signings, trades, and minor league signings to flesh out the roster and improve for the 2024 season. It was known that Arizona would be looking for a designated hitter to add to the mix and it appears they have found their man after it was reported on Thursday that they had signed Joc Pederson to a one-year, $12.5 million deal with a mutual option for 2025 worth $14 million. While Pederson may not have been the best overall hitter on the market, in retrospect he is the exact type of player that could do quite well in the confines of Chase Field with a team on the rise like the Diamondbacks.

Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010 out of the 11th round, Pederson quickly became a household name when he finished sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2015. During his time with the Dodgers from 2014-20, Pederson became well known for his power by clubbing 130 of his 186 career home runs. The two-time All-Star enjoyed a successful 2021 season split between the Chicago Cubs and eventual World Series Champion Atlanta Braves before entering the free agent market once again. For the past two seasons, Pederson has been a member of the San Francisco Giants, where he was an All-Star in 2022.

Pederson’s 2023 was a mixed bag of results after his strong 2022 campaign. In 121 games he batted .235/.348/.416 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI. His walk rate jumped up to 13.4% but his 111 wRC+ was a big dropoff from the previous year, despite it still being above league average. Despite the implementation of shift rules, meant to help hitters like Pederson, he still saw his average drop. This was in contrast to the fact that Pederson still ranks in the top 10% in hard hit rates and exit velocity but only managed a .268 batting average on balls in play.

A move to Chase Field, a more hitter-friendly environment, could help Pederson see more power return as he continues to make hard contact and lift the ball more. The Diamondbacks will rely on him to help provide more power from the left side of the plate, a trait that will come in handy as he has done the majority of his damage in his career against right-handed pitching.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com pointed out the fact that the majority of starting rotations in the NL West are predominantly right-handed. This bodes well for Pederson as he has seen his time against left-handers rapidly diminish over the years. The reason for this is sound since he has slashed just .209/.293/.329 against lefties with only 14 home runs in 606 plate appearances. The Diamondbacks instead are likely attracted by how Pederson not only balances the lineup a bit more but can still be considered a regular because of the nature of matchups that he’ll face. Against right-handed pitching, Pederson has a career slash of .242/.344/.490 with 142 doubles, 172 home runs, and 421 RBI with a 125 wRC+. This likely factored into the signing and could pay off huge dividends for Pederson and the Diamondbacks.

Pederson can fill the DH slot on the regular but should the need arise, he can play the outfield and first base. His defense has never earned strong reviews, but in a dire situation can at least hold his own. It would give the team opportunities to slide some other players into the DH spot as a pseudo-off day should that be required. But with the majority of starting pitchers being right-handed, Pederson can be expected to continue to play the same 120-130 games he did in San Francisco the past two years.  Health has never been much of an issue so he can be reliable to stick out the entire season.

The familiarity of the NL West will likely help Pederson in his quest to improve and find ways to rebound and will help the D-backs with his veteran presence. A two-time World Series champion is a valuable player to have, especially for a young team with World Series aspirations. There could be an argument made that they should have waited longer to try and land J.D. Martinez, but for the D-backs, this seemed like the best-case scenario on a somewhat cheaper deal with a player entering his age 32 season.  He is the platoon dream the team

 

 

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