The Arizona Diamondbacks haven’t been the splashiest team this offseason — they’ve been overshadowed by a team in their own division there — but in terms of finding value and filling needs, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that anyone’s done it better than GM Mike Hazen and company. That streak continued late Thursday night, when MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert broke the news that the team was signing All-Star outfielder/DH Joc Pederson to a one-year, $9.5 million deal.
The @Dbacks deal with Joc Pederson is for 1 year with a mutual option for 2025.— Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB) January 26, 2024
Just going by Pederson’s 2023 stats, you may not see what the fuss is about. Last season with the San Francisco Giants, the 31-year-old hit .235/.348/.416 (111 OPS+) with 15 homers and 51 RBI — not terrible numbers, but nothing to write home about considering his lack of defensive or baserunning value (to wit: those numbers were good for just 0.6 WAR, according to Baseball Reference).
Look under the hood, however, and there’s plenty to get excited about. Lost in his topline numbers is the fact that Pederson was playing his home games at San Francisco’s Oracle Park, one of the worst ballparks in the game for lefty power. (Just ask past left-handed bats like Brandon Belt.) The stats may not have shown it, but Pederson still puts together quality at-bats, and he still hits the ball very, very hard:
Those metrics figure to play a lot better at Chase Field, and we’re just 18 months removed from Pederson putting up 23 homers and a .521 slugging percentage across 380 at-bats in 2022. The slugger should only be used in the outfielder corners at this point in his career, and even then only sparingly — he started 72 games at DH for San Francisco last year compared to just 23 in the outfield. But that works out just fine for the D-backs, whose outfield dance card is already full with Alek Thomas in center, Corbin Carroll in right and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left.
Where Arizona needed some help, however, was at DH — and with lefty power in particular. (The D-backs ranked just 10th in the NL in homers in 2023.) Pederson checks both of those boxes, and they should be able to give him regular work there against right-handed pitching. Along with the trade for Eugenio Suarez and the signing of Eduardo Rodriguez, Hazen continues to fill his team’s needs with quality, above-average players on a reasonable budget, and Pederson adds one more professional hitter to what is now a sneaky-deep lineup. If you’re expecting the Snakes to regress after their Cinderella run to the World Series last fall, you could be waiting a while.