Now with the Cubs, Joc Pederson sets out to prove something…to himself
MESA, Ariz. — You could say Joc Pederson has a chip on his shoulder.
But he’s setting out to prove something to himself — not necessarily the rest of baseball.
“I know what type of player I am and just getting the opportunities is going to be good for me,” he said. “I guess you could say I gotta prove some stuff, but I’m not out to prove it for anybody but myself.
“I know what I can do and I’m not going to add pressure like, ‘I gotta do this for you or them.’ It’s like, no, I know what type of player I am and to get the opportunities, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun year in Chicago.”
He had multi-year offers in free agency, but ultimately chose to sign a one-year pact with the Cubs because they offered him the chance to be an everyday player. He opted to bet on himself over the security of a longer deal.
Pederson, who turns 29 in April, just hit free agency for the first time this winter after spending his entire adult life in the Dodgers organization. In seven years in L.A., he hit 130 homers and posted an .806 OPS.
He made the playoffs each year with the Dodgers, including winning the World Series last fall.
But he also felt he was put into a box in his time with L.A. as a left-handed hitter who only faced right-handed pitchers.
Over his career, 15.3% of his plate appearances have come against southpaws. That number has dropped steadily since he broke into the league as the Dodgers have maximized platoons. Last year, Pederson notched just 10 plate appearances against lefties and 128 against righties.
He believes strongly he can succeed against lefties, too.
“I don’t think I am respected as an everyday player; a lot of teams didn’t want to pursue me as that,” Pederson said. “I’m excited for this opportunity and it’s fun to come to the field everyday knowing that I’m getting another shot. I love it.”
He got pretty far down the road with other teams this winter but when they ultimately decided they wanted him to slide back into a platoon, Pederson decided to take his fate into his own hands.
He detailed the process in a thoughtful Players’ Tribune article but in short, he went searching for an opportunity and landed on the Cubs.
As talks with the Cubs advanced, Pederson had a straightforward conversation with manager David Ross about playing everyday.
“He was super honest and up front and that’s kinda how I am — I’m pretty blunt,” Pederson said. “He was really excited. He was like, ‘I didn’t know we were going to talk to free agents of your caliber.’
“It was [Ross] basically saying, ‘hey, I’m going to pencil you in there every day and if we come to July and you’re not cutting it and you’re hitting .150 against lefties, we’re still here to win ballgames.’ And I said, ‘absolutely, I’m not looking for anything guaranteed. I want a real opportunity.’ And basically he said, ‘we’re gonna give you that.’
“I trusted him and I think he’s trusting me. It’s going to be a lot of fun. There’s no guarantee this is how things are going to go or whatnot, but the opportunity is there.”
When asked if there’s more of a complete player in him than he’s shown to this point in his career, Pederson said simply:
“Yeah, there is.”