The Diamondbacks continue adding to the lineup. They’re reportedly in agreement with designated hitter/outfielder Joc Pederson on a one-year, $12.5MM guarantee. The Excel Sports Management client will receive a $9.5MM salary next season and is due a $3MM buyout on a 2025 mutual option valued at $14MM.
Pederson, 32 in April, has been a potent slugger in the big leagues for a decade now. Since his 2014 debut, he has launched 186 home runs while playing for the Dodgers, Cubs, Braves and Giants.
That latter club has employed Pederson for the past two seasons. He signed a one-year, $6MM deal going into 2022 and gave the club plenty of return on that investment. He hit 23 home runs and walked in 9.7% of his plate appearances. His .274/.353/.521 batting line translated to a wRC+ of 146, indicating he was 46% better than league average. His defense continued to be a liability, but that offensive production was excellent.
The Giants were clearly impressed, as they surprisingly extended a $19.65MM qualifying offer to Pederson going into 2023. He accepted that offer and returned to San Francisco for another year, which led to results that were a bit more mixed. His walk rate jumped up to 13.4% but his batting average dipped and he only hit 15 home runs on the year. His .235/.348/.416 batting line led to a wRC+ of 111, still above average but a big drop from the year prior.
Despite the down year in terms of results, there are reasons to be bullish, something recently explored by Leo Morgenstern of MLBTR. Pederson’s Statcast page continues to glow with a crimson red, as his hard hit rate and average exit velocity are both in the top 10% of qualified hitters. Despite continually pummeling the ball, his batting average on balls in play dropped from .310 in 2022 to .268.
That latter figure exactly matches his career BABIP, which arguably points more to 2022 being an outlier than the most recent season. But on the other hand, 2023 was the first year with the ban on defensive shifts. As a slow-running left-handed power bat, Pederson was the exact type of player the shift ban was supposed to help, and yet his BABIP dropped by over 40 points as his quality of contact stayed strong.
Even if the BABIP fortune doesn’t change, Pederson can be a valuable platoon bat. His .242/.344/.490 line against righties in his career translates to a 125 wRC+, compared to a line of .209/.293/.329 and a 73 wRC+ against lefties. His 2023 results were pretty close to those career marks, with a .241/.351/.435 slash and 115 wRC+ with the platoon advantage and .186/.327/.279 and 80 wRC+ otherwise.
Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen has been open for some time about the club’s willingness to add a full-time designated hitter, and Pederson would fit the bill. He can play the outfield a bit, and has seen brief stints at first base, but his glovework has never been highly rated and his time spent on the grass has declined over time. He only made 23 starts in the outfield in 2023 and logged just 204 innings there for the year.
Those figures may decline even further in 2024 if a deal gets done with the Snakes. They will likely have Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as their regular outfield, with Jake McCarthy and Dominic Fletcher on hand for depth. With those outfielders on the roster, they wouldn’t need Pederson to don a glove very often.
After making a surprise World Series run in 2023, the Diamondbacks have been active in reloading the roster for 2024. They traded for Eugenio Suárez to take over as their third baseman and signed Eduardo Rodríguez to strengthen their rotation. If they are able to get a deal done with Pederson, it would add another threat to the lineup.
Those moves have pushed the club into unprecedented payroll territory, despite the fact that their RSN deal with Diamond Sports Group collapsed in 2023. Per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the club’s franchise record Opening Day payroll is $132MM. Roster Resource now projects next year’s payroll figure above $142MM.
ESPN’s Buster Olney first reported the Diamondbacks and Pederson were in discussions. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported the sides were closing in an agreement. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com was first to report the sides had agreed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2025. Piecoro reported the salary breakdown.
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