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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Joc Pederson

After winning two consecutive World Series titles with two different teams, could Pederson be an option for the Yankees?

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

After seven seasons and a World Series championship with the Dodgers, Joc Pederson played elsewhere for the first time in his major league career in 2021. A weird last couple years in LA saw him nearly get traded in a move in conjunction with the Dodgers acquiring Mookie Betts. That didn’t happen, and the season ended with him winning a World Series ring.

A year later, Pederson was again celebrating a World Series championship, this time as a member of the Braves. After signing with the Cubs last offseason, a midseason trade saw him go to Atlanta, where he became a fan favorite for wearing a pearl necklace while playing, and won another ring.

Now, he is once again on the free agent market. So should the Yankees consider signing him as he goes for a person three-peat?

The first thing to consider when looking at Pederson or any outfielder this offseason is the fit. With some combination of Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees are mostly set at the corners. Aaron Hicks in center field is the main question mark, and unless the Yankees want to commit to Judge playing there a lot, it’s the position you need to consider for any outfield signing.

The good news with Pederson is that he has played there plenty in his career. Center was the position he mostly played in his first four seasons in the majors. While he’s still played there a decent amount in recent years, he’s spent way more time at the corners since 2019.

The reason he’s played less and less in center over the year has a lot to do with the fact that he’s not a great fielder. According to Statcast, only once has he posted a Outs Above Average in center that wasn’t in the negatives since 2016. That one year, 2019, it was zero, mostly because he only played five innings in center all season.

It’s not just in center field that he’s put up below average fielding numbers in, though. His overall fielding numbers in OAA are all negative since 2016. Unless the Yankees decide to play Judge in center more and live with Pederson at a corner, it’s hard to see him being a fit defensively.

Offensively, his last two seasons also give pause. Ahead of last season, if you wanted to look past his 2020, that was understandable. He only put up a 86 wRC+ and a .297 wOBA in 2020, but it was also the shortened 60-game season. Those numbers improved in 2021, but not by a ton, finishing with a 94 wRC+ and a .315 wOBA. Part of that was due to the fact that he had an abysmally bad April (.137/.262/.235), and you can only improve so much after that bad a month. His numbers from April on were way better (.251/.317/.447), but still not overly impressive.

While those numbers don’t stand out, Pederson has been a bit of a streaky player. In his rookie year in 2016, he was named an All-Star after putting up a .851 OPS in the first half of the season. His second half OPS then dropped to .617. In 2017, he was a merely league average hitter, but in the two years after that he put up a 126 wRC+ in two-straight years. Maybe after a down 2021, he’s due for a bounce back year?

His hard hit data suggests that could be true.

Baseball Savant

He still is one of the hardest hitters in the league. On the other hand, his expected numbers suggest he only should’ve been a bit better than he actually was. Two things seemed to have led to a drop in numbers considering his exit velocity data. For one, his launch angle is down from his 2017-18 seasons. The other is that he keeps steadily taking less and less walks.

Baseball Savant

Pederson is an intriguing player, but considering his defense and the way his offense has been trending, it’s hard to see how the puzzle pieces fit for him and Yankees.