What Joc Pederson signing means for Cubs
Last Friday morning, Cubs fans woke up to the first significant addition of the offseason when it was reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that the team had signed outfielder Joc Pederson to a one-year deal.
The move was made official on Friday afternoon as the Cubs made their biggest free-agent splash of the winter to date.
Pederson, 28, is a former All-Star who won the World Series last fall with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has 130 career homers and a .230/.336/.470 slash line (.806 OPS) to go along with 13 WAR (FanGraphs).
His best year came in 2019 when he mashed 36 homers with an .876 OPS. He’s known as a decent defender who can play all three outfield spots, though he’s only played 5 innings in center field since 2018.
Pederson also has plenty of postseason experience, playing in 3 World Series and boasting a .272/.349/.503 slash line (.852 OPS) in 64 career playoff games.
Last season, he hit .190 with a .681 OPS and 7 homers in 43 regular-season games. But he turned it on in the playoffs, hitting .382 with a .991 OPS in 16 games.
He is an option for the leadoff spot, spending more time (249 starts) atop the order in his career than anywhere else in the lineup. He has struggled against left-handed pitching over his career (.191 AVG, .576 OPS) but has hammered right-handers (.849 OPS).
Pederson’s versatility gives the Cubs plenty of options, both defensively and in the lineup. His arrival fills a hole in the outfield and also affords manager David Ross another name to throw in the hat for the leadoff spot.
Ian Happ did well atop the order last season and could remain there, but Pederson’s addition gives Ross more options.
With Pederson in tow, here’s a potential 2021 Cubs lineup against right-handed pitchers:
1. Joc Pederson – LF
2. Kris Bryant – 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo – 1B
4. Javy Báez – SS
5. Ian Happ – CF
6. Willson Contreras – C
7. Jason Heyward – RF
8. Nico Hoerner – 2B
That gives the Cubs a desirable left-right balance throughout the order and illustrates how Pederson’s addition lengthens the lineup.
Against lefties, the Cubs could swap in Philip Ervin for Pederson or Heyward and move Happ back up to the leadoff spot. Ervin — whom the Cubs acquired off waivers in December — has a career .811 OPS against southpaws and could form a dynamic platoon at one of the corner outfield spots.
The Cubs could also opt to play Bryant in the outfield with David Bote, Ildemaro Vargas, Matt Duffy (minor-league signing) among the alternative options to play in the infield.
Either way, this is a significant addition for the Cubs amid a winter that has seen several key players depart via trade or free agency. Entering the offseason, MLBTradeRumors.com listed Pederson No. 18 among the Top 50 free agents.
The Cubs have maintained all winter that they intend to compete in a wide-open division in 2021 and the Pederson signing is a big step toward that goal.