Joc Pederson Could Be the Free Agent Bat the Mariners Need

As one of the best hitters available on the free agent market not named Shohei Ohtani, can the underrated Pederson-Pop bring the PNW back to the postseason?
Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants
Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants / Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/GettyImages

Joc Pederson is an immensely entertaining player to watch. After ups and downs with the Dodgers, Cubs, and Braves, he seemed to finally put the pieces together in 2022, slashing an outstanding .274/.353/.521, totaling an OPS of .874 (146 OPS+).

In 2023, he started off hot, posting a .913 OPS in May and an OPS of .873 in June but like the rest of the San Francisco Giants, his offense took a dive heading into the middle of summer. Nonetheless, we still saw flashes of incredible power and abilities with a bat.

His 2023 slash line came to .235/.348/.416 for a respectable .764 OPS (111 OPS+), but this doesn't tell the whole story. What's most interesting about Joc is that he may have been one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball this year.

Statcast uses expected stats (e.g. xBA, xwOBA, xSLG) in an attempt to control for variables, primarily displays of incredible fielding. For example, xBA is calculated as such: each batted ball is assigned a probability it becomes a hit based on how similar batted balls (similar launch angle and exit velocity) have performed. Thus, a player with a high xBA but a low BA means that they probably should've ended up with a higher batting average. xSLG has a similar formula.

All of Joc Pederson's expected stats are significantly higher than their real counterparts. His xBA was .263 against his real BA of .235. His xSLG of .483 was much higher than his real SLG of .416. Assuming the same walk rate, Joc Pederson's 2023 expected slash line could've looked something like .263/.376/.483 for an OPS of .859, significantly better than his actual results. To prove this point, there are quite almost as many highlights of his home runs getting robbed as there are of his home runs actually leaving the park.

A better way to analyze his ability is by taking a look at his peripherals. His average exit velocity was 92.1 mph (91st percentile), his hard-hit rate was 52.2% (96th percentile), and his walk-rate was 13.4%, (91st percentile). He struck out at an average rate (20.9%, 59th percentile) so it's not like he's falling into a three-true outcome profile either.

One downside of Joc Pederson is that really his only offering is his bat. Known as a subpar defender, he spends most of his time filling the DH role but has been known to put on a glove every so often. It's no secret that this position was a revolving door of disappointment for Seattle and Pederson could be the full-time DH the team needs. With Mike Ford himself regressing to a .709 OPS in the second half, he's clearly not sufficient as an offensive option and the Mariners are in dire need of a real power threat.

He's also expensive. Pederson was paid an exorbitant $19.65 million this year in San Francisco and with qualifying offers estimated to crest $20 million, he'll likely be hoping for an amount close to that amount. As a pure DH who probably won't see much time in the outfield, a salary similar to the $14 million paid to Teoscar Hernandez might be fitting.

There are a lot of teams in dire need of better hitting and with the 2024 free agent class being slim pickings when it comes to position players, Joc Pederson might be one of Seattle's few hopes to make it back to October baseball.