One of the toughest parts about baseball is getting attached to players. These heroes we get to see on television and in our communities every day can suddenly vanish. In an instant, they could pop up on your feed donning a new uniform as soon as the next game. We saw that with the first Matt Kemp trade, and most recently with Yasiel Puig. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why fans would not be receptive to a Joc Pederson trade.
From the moment he showed up at the big league level, Dodgers fans have loved Joc. He made his debut in late 2014, but really showed what the hype was about the following season. He crushed 26 home runs across 151 games, which is still his career-high. The issue though is that his power came with plenty of flaws. Pederson struck out 170 times in 2015 en route to a below mediocre 210/346/417 slash line. And while he has cut down on his strikeouts since then, Pederson continues to prove that he is meant for a platoon role.
Joc has slashed a low but encouraging 239/355/487 against right-handers in his career. He has also hit 78 of 87 home runs coming from that side. Against left-handed pitching has been an entirely different narrative. Pederson has hit an awful 181/266/317 against southpaws throughout the course of his career. His strikeout rate against lefties is an abysmal 29% when he gets a chance to hit against them. Compare that to his 24% K rate against righties and you have a potential platoon candidate.
Why Trade Him Now?
Fans will naturally ask, if Pederson is so clearly a platoon type player then why trade him now? The easiest answer to that is he is coming off of one of his better seasons just two years ahead of free agency. Pederson got his strikeout rate down below 20 percent for the first time in his career in 2018. He also hit for a career-high in terms of batting average. He managed to put together a 2.3 WAR season despite a reduced role the past two years.
A few of his peripheral stats appeared to be a source of encouragement for interesting teams as well. Pederson’s wOBA(354) and wRC+(126) both reached near or above his career-highs, suggesting he had a better season than I had originally thought.
Another reason to get the deal done now it that Los Angeles has put itself in a weird position with their lineup. The team has mostly left-handed hitters around the lineup with a projected six players on the 25-man roster as it stands today. If the Dodgers are indeed serious about Alex Verdugo earning an everyday spot, that means Pederson will likely be on his way out.
The Return For Pederson
Unfortunately, the return for Joc Pederson may not be as high as any fan would like. Los Angeles is not looking for a major league ready player to take over his roster spot, but rather a small package of prospects to make the deal worthwhile.
This deal likely opens the door for Los Angeles to make an official offer to AJ Pollock, thus adding another right-handed bat. It would also clear up $5 million of salary obligations, for whatever that is worth. Does it mean Bryce Harper is a lock? Not at all, but it does create a ton of flexibility with Los Angeles’ plans.
AJ Pollock, or a combination of Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo all appear to be leading candidates for the replacement of Pederson should he be traded.
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