By Evan Webeck
In a sign of how much they value the hometown slugger, the Giants will give Joc Pederson a substantial raise next season after he accepted their qualifying offer on Tuesday.
Pederson was perhaps the most surprising of the 14 players around MLB to receive the offer, which will pay him $19.65 million (the average salary of MLB’s 125 highest-paid players), more than triple his $6 million salary in 2022.
That likely made it an easy decision for Pederson, a Palo Alto native whose wife recently gave birth to their third child, even if he could have garnered a multiple-year deal on the open market. He turned down an option for $10 million prior to signing with the Giants last season, and he has never earned more than $7 million annually, according to Cot’s Contracts.
It also reflected the reality that bringing back Pederson, their top left-handed and power hitter from last season, was in the words of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, “part of our plan A for 2023.”
Zaidi said the sides discussed a multi-year deal but couldn’t reach the finish line, and the engorged salary of a qualifying offer — along with the burden it carries, requiring other teams to part with a draft pick to sign him — was intended to lure Pederson back for another season, despite missing the postseason for the first time in his career.
“Ultimately it was the best way to keep him in a Giants uniform for 2023, which we’re happy about,” Zaidi said.
Pederson, rocking a Golden State Warriors 2021-22 championship hat, said that he has “enjoyed my time in San Francisco.
“It’s a great organization. I think we definitely underperformed last year. It’s a good group of guys and we’re going to add some pieces, I’m pretty sure.”
Reflecting the reality of the market for a one-dimensional slugger whose defense nearly negated all his offensive contributions last season, Pederson was one of only two players, along with Rangers starter Martin Perez, to accept their qualifying offer. The Giants also offered one to Carlos Rodón, who rejected it, as expected, making him a free agent.
Pederson was voted an All-Star and led the Giants with 23 home runs in only 380 at-bats, but his sluggish defense in left field (the lowest-rated outfield defender in the NL, according to FanGraphs) encapsulated a wider problem for a team regarded by most metrics as the worst defensively in the majors.
“It was not a good defensive year for a lot of guys on the Giants,” said Pederson, who added that while he was open to DHing more often he also intended to play the outfield for years to come. “It was extremely frustrating. One thing leads to another and then to another. And then an overthrow or you miss the cut off guy. It was like a merry-go-round, and that’s our own faults and we need to be better. It’s not something that we’re not aware of.”
Zaidi and his new general manager, Pete Putila, have expressed a desire to get more athletic, so why extend such a meaty offer to Pederson? There are reasons, besides the potential draft-pick compensation that would have been attached had he declined.
1) Pederson proved his value in 2022 — in a specific role
Pederson was worth 2.1 wins above replacement last season, according to FanGraphs, tied for third among Giants position players. But he would have been more valuable if he hadn’t played an inning of defense.
Pederson’s teammates got a kick out of him slapping his belly in the training room, but on the field, his lack of conditioning meant that he left value on the table. According to FanGraphs, Pederson was worth 22.6 runs above average on offense, but that value was almost entirely negated by his minus-17.6 runs on defense.
He rocked righties to the tune of an .894 OPS. His platoon splits against lefties were the best of his career, 12% above league average, according to wRC+. But across the board, his defensive metrics rated as career lows, ranking among the worst in the majors in ultimate zone rating (UZR), defensive runs saved and outs above average.
For those reasons, Zaidi said the plan is to play Pederson more at designated hitter — perhaps as one-half of a platoon — but Zaidi would also be happy if Pederson could credibly claim to be in the best shape of his life when spring training rolls around next year.
“I’ve seen him be a good defender, so he has that capability,” said Zaidi, who overlapped with Pederson with the Dodgers. “We’ll try to construct the roster in a way that DHing him is an option. But if the defense is where I think it can get, then we’ll have the option to put him out in the outfield as well. It’s something we’d like to work on with him.”
2) Potential benefit from shift restrictions
Pederson breathed a sigh of relief when MLB announced restrictions coming to defensive positioning in 2023.
“It sucks hitting a line drive to right field and Manny Machado catches it,” Pederson said at the time. “It’s not fun.”
Pederson, as well as many pull-heavy lefties around the league, could benefit from the new rules, requiring two defenders on each side of second base when the pitch is thrown. Meaning: line drives to right field find more grass and less leather.
“If you ask Joc, he probably think he’s going to win the batting title next year,” Zaidi joked. “He seemed to be at the top of the list of, like, hard-hit one-hoppers right at the second baseman playing shallow right field.”
Pederson was shifted on in 77% of his plate appearances last season, according to Baseball Savant, the 42nd-most of players with at least 250 PAs and third on the Giants. Bucking conventional wisdom, however, Pederson’s wOBA (weighted on-base average) was actually slightly worse in plate appearances without a shift.
Pederson’s underlying metrics suggest there is room for even more line drive base hits, though, barreling up balls in 9.9% of his plate appearances last season. His company, with 10% or more: Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez, Mike Trout, Kyle Schwarber, Giancarlo Stanton, Shohei Ohtani, Austin Riley and Ryan Mountcastle.
“We’ve done some analysis,” Zaidi said. “We certainly think it’ll help him.”
3) Money is no issue this offseason
As Zaidi said last week at the general manager’s meetings: “From a financial standpoint, there’s nobody that would be out of our capability.”
Giving their hometown guy $20 million could just be a preview of things to come.
While Pederson said he received no assurances from the Giants’ top brass, he did say it would have been a “very upsetting thing to sign up for,” if he didn’t believe they stood a chance at returning to the postseason. In eight seasons in the majors, last year was the first time Pederson didn’t play in the postseason.
“I’m confident in the group that we have and the pieces that we’re gonna add that we’re gonna be in the perfect position to compete,” Pederson said. ” … As bad as it was, we still finished at .500. That’s not a good expectation to have. But it just shows you, we weren’t like 20 games under and everything fell apart. Everything fell apart and we finished at .500.”
Source: Paradise Post