Atlanta Braves get help for the outfield in Joc Pederson

The Atlanta Braves have done the necessary thing:  they have picked up a stop-gap outfielder in Joc Pederson.

Is this the BIG trade we were waiting for?  No, but it is a good move by the Atlanta Braves in picking up a capable hitter from the Cubs in Joc Pederson who has a chance of sticking around for another campaign.

There’s a lot of twitter analysis going on about this right now, but let’s start with the obvious:  the Braves needed another hitter in the worst way.  They may still need another hitter, but this trade should at least give them a chance to compete decently through the end of the month.

At that point, it is likely that Alex Anthopoulos will take stock of the situation his team is in and make the appropriate “buy” or “sell” call at that time.

What the Atlanta Braves are getting

Joc Pederson is a left-handed, lefty-batting slugger.  Over his career, he has tended to destroy right-handed pitching (132 homers) and struggle against lefties.  That trend has been a bit mixed up in 2021, though.

He can handle any outfield position, though has mostly played in left field this season, having 1 assist and just one error. In recent years, he’s more set up for a corner spot, having not seen much action in center field since 2017-18.

The Braves have needed a lefty bat, but while the Cubs went into the season believing that they might be able to cure his severe platoon split, that has yielded odd results in 2021:

  • vs. LHP:  .271/.348/.339/.687 (no homers)
  • vs. RHP:  .218/.285/.442/.727 (11 homers)

Yes — his slugging comes against RHP; his contact hitting is now oddly coming against southpaws… as a lefty-handed hitter.  Go figure.

In 2018-19, Pederson bashed 61 homers… he’s on pace for about 20 this season, despite more plate appearances than usual to date.  Regardless, he’s still a threat, and the RHP’s in the NL East should (literally) be right in his wheelhouse.

What the Cubs are getting

Bryce Ball is a first base/designated hitter prospect with a ton of power potential — enough to be dubbed names like “Ball Bunyan” and such.

This season, he is hitting .207 with a .750 OPS and 6 homers in 53 games with High-A Rome.  The 23-year-old (barely) has been a darling among some Braves prospect watchers, but the fact is that he hasn’t progressed even to the AA level yet, and his age is starting to become a factor.

On top of that, there’s this guy named Freddie Freeman who is quite likely to continue to occupy his position at the major league level for the foreseeable future, so the Braves truly won’t miss him in the long run.

That said…. this comment from Jim Bowden (below) is way overstating the case — on both ends of the deal:

Let’s not get crazy here.  Please?

What the Braves are thinking

As we discussed the other day, the Atlanta Braves needed something to help the offense have a chance as they enter a very difficult schedule stretch lasting to the end of the month.  Without another outfield bat, they could simply have waved the white flag now.

While Pederson won’t be confused with Ronald Acuna, he will at least allow the Braves to compete over this stretch.

When we get to the last week of the month and toward the July 30 trade deadline, if the team has managed to stay close to the Mets in the divisional race (they are now 4 games behind), then Alex Anthopoulos would have the reason to pursue more deals that might help them overtake the Mets.

If not… then it will be time to sell.

In the meantime, Pederson could still be around for 2022 if he’s useful to the team.  His current $4.5 million contract expands to $10 million in 2022 as a mutual option.

Players and teams both opting to pick up their sides of these mutual options is a rare thing, but the Braves will need some able bodies for the outfield to begin 2022, so this might work for them.

Atlanta will be responsible for the remaining $2 million of salary this season and the $2.5m buyout of that mutual option if they decline their side of it.

But this is a start… we’ll see if Pederson can inject a bit of life into this lineup.  It’s sorely needed.