While most of our focus in the young stages of the off-season has been on starting pitching, on simple fact remains for the Mariners entering 2019: they just need to be better. Period.
We all do. Even those of us who write about the Mariners on a nearly daily basis. We get so focused on areas of specific need for a ball club. But at the end of the day, so long as you have more runs than your opponent, you win the game.
A 7-5 win is just as valuable as a 1-0 win. So while the most obvious way for Jerry Dipoto to attack this off-season is to focus on pitching, he very well could go the other way and aggressively pursue offensive upgrades.
When we consider where those upgrades could come, we shift our focus to the outfield. The Mariners have one position locked down. Mitch Haniger is your RF. You can move him around to help play matchup, but he is your primary RF entering 2019.
And that is it. While some of us at Sodo Mojo would like to see Ben Gamel get everyday run in a corner spot, the Mariners seem hesitant to commit to him. Centerfield is a giant mess. While Guillermo Heredia plays a decent CF, he was an atrocious bat, and at 28-year-old’s, it’s unlikely he will improve significantly enough to trust with 500 PAs.
This leaves Dee Gordon who showed promise in the OF in his transition but was a below-average defender and a bad bat as well. So where can they go? We wrote about A.J. Pollock(read here) who is probably the best CF available in free agency. But with his potential contract demands and injury history, he might be too big a risk.
Which brings us to the name of today, Joc Pederson.
Joc Pederson is a 26-year-old left-handed outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A career .228/.339/.456 hitter, Pederson is still a bit of a project. However, in 2018, Pederson hit .248/.321/.522 in limited opportunities in a crowded Dodgers outfield.
One thing that Pederson has in spades is power. In 443 PAs in 2018, Pederson clubbed 25 home runs, as well as 27 doubles and 3 triples. Pederson also has an above-average walk rate (13%) and average K-rate (24.9%) in his career.
In addition, Pederson grades as a solid-average baserunner. A centerfielder for most of his career, Pederson grades as an okay defender. In 2018, Pederson shifted to LF as his primary position, and he graded as a solid above-average defender.
So why has Pederson not been given 500 PAs since 2015? Well, Pederson is most definitely a platoon player. In his career against LHP, he is an anemic .181/.266/.317 hitter. However, on the flip side of the coin, Pederson crushes RHP to the tune of a .239/.355/.487 triple slash.
We have already touched on the fit a bit. Pederson is a fringe-average CF who is practically unusable against LHP. But as a strong side platoon OF, Pederson still makes sense in LF against RHP or even CF, knowing that Gordon, Heredia, or Haniger can handle CF later in the game.
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Inserting Pederson into the middle of the lineup for 60%-65% of your games is a massive upgrade over what you got in 2 OF spots in 2018. Acquiring Pederson would likely require bringing in a platoon mate, meaning you’ll have 1 less bench spot to work with.
But a starting OF against an RHP of Gamel-Pederson-Haniger (from left to right) is a significant offensive upgrade to asking Gordon or Heredia to get those AB’s.
Since he is under control for 2 full seasons, pinpointing the cost to acquire Pederson will be nearly impossible. He is scheduled to make $4 million in arbitration this off-season. Since he is a platoon player who doesn’t have plus speed or defensive prowess in the middle of the field, Pederson will be cheaper than other options, but still not free.
Barring a surprise trade of a major 25 man roster piece, Pederson is most likely to be acquired in a part of a 3 team trade. The Dodgers will still have Matt Kemp, Cody Bellinger, Enrique Hernandez, Yasiel Puig, and Chris Taylor on their roster, so if the team can find a deal to improve their roster elsewhere, one of these names could very well be in the cards.
As is the case with most players who may be available in the off-season, the overwhelming odds say that Pederson will not be a Mariners OF’er in 2019. However, what we do know is that Dipoto will be an active shopper, and if he thinks the Dodgers have an OF he needs, don’t be shocked to see a deal get done.