The Yankees Should Trade For Joc Pederson

Lost in the craziness of the Betts/Price trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers was the failed Joc Pederson trade to the Los Angeles Angels. According to reports, Angels owner Arte Moreno was unhappy with waiting on the Betts deal to complete. The Angels missed out on an opportunity to bring in an above-average lefty power bat to man right field. One person’s impatience can lead to another man’s chance at opportunity. That man should be Brian Cashman.

Joc Pederson would be a nice addition to the Yankees. I mentioned this in an earlier column, but it is worth repeating. The Yankees spent $324 million on Gerrit Cole. This is as strong an indication of the Yankees intentions as you can imagine. They want to win multiple titles. In order to accomplish this, the team should look to maximize each available roster spot with as many high quality players as possible. This is stating the obvious, but it is a pretty difficult strategy to execute. Pederson would be able to address multiple needs of the roster, but only filling up one slot. Let’s take a deeper dive.

A Productive Lefty Bat

The departure of Didi Gregorius and the injury to Aaron Hicks leaves Brett Gardner as the only lefty regular in the lineup. Fortunately, the team has two good bats in Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford, but there is a need for more. Joc Pederson would immediately slot in as the top lefty hitter in the lineup. In 2019, Pederson hit .249/.339/.538/.876 with 36 home runs in 450 at-bats. There is the obvious caveat of the juiced ball, but Pederson hit 26 and 25 homers as a 23 and 24-year-old in 2014 and 2015 respectively so power isn’t foreign to him.

Looking beyond the standard stats, we will see some encouraging trends for Pederson. We will start with his wOBA:

According to Fangraphs, wOBA combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighing each of them in proportion to their actual run value. It is a more accurate metric of a player’s contribution to scoring runs. As we can see from this graph, Pederson sits comfortably as an above average offensive contributor. He finished 2019 in the 69th percentile in this measurement. This captures Pederson’s diverse skillset in impacting the offensive side of the game. While his main contribution is power, he isn’t simply a slugger looking for that one pitch to drive out of the park. There is another trend resting under the hood that should excite Yankees fans.

Pederson’s strikeout rate sits below the league average over the last three years:

I didn’t expect to see this when researching Pederson’s data. I always thought Joc was a free swinger taking big hacks hunting for homers. That clearly isn’t the case. There was a jump in 2019, but that makes sense given the league-wide increase in strikeouts.

These metrics paint a pretty nice picture of Pederson’s overall ability as an offensive player. He creates runs in multiple ways and is improving as a disciplined hitter. Of course, his calling card remains his power.

The Power Is Legit

Joc Pederson hits the ball very hard. In 2019, his average exit velocity of 90.9 mph sat in the 83rd percentile. His hard hit percentage of 43.5% sat in the 76th percentile. Over the course of his career, Pederson routinely sits in the higher rankings of any hard hit ball measurement.

There has also been a conscious effort to get the ball in the air with more consistency. Over the last two seasons, Pederson’s average launch angles of 15.4 and 15.3, in 2018 and 2019 respectively, are the highest of his career. As a result, Pederson experienced the highest fly ball rates of his career. Joc hitting the ball with consistent authority in the air leads to improved performances like this :

This is a player who knows his strengths and is developing ways to maximize them. Sure, the juiced ball factors in, but that does a disservice to the clear improvement Pederson is making as a power hitter. There is another aspect of Joc’s offensive profile that suggests increased productivity could be on the way.

Improved Control Of The Strike Zone

Oftentimes when we think of strike zone control balls and strikes immediately come to mind. Strike zone control also refers to the types of pitches batters swing at in the zone. Hitters could let mistakes go by while swinging at a pitch with great command. Pederson is being more aggressive with swings in the zone while maintaining an average zone contact rate. Here is a look at Pederson’s z-swing% or swing rate in the strike zone over his career:

This is important because it shows that Pederson is giving himself more chances to positively impact the baseball. Yes, he has an average contact rate in the zone, but increasing the usage of that swing increases the opportunity to do damage. There is one more aspect to this that will give a clearer understanding of Pederson’s production over the last year.

He is pulling the ball more now than at any other point in his career. According to statcast, Joc pulled the ball 46% of the time in 2019. Prior to last year, the closest Pederson came to that number was in 2016 with a 40.1% pull rate. He is hitting the ball in the air with authority to his pull side. This would work incredibly well in Yankee Stadium.

Defense and Platoon Issues

We won’t be confusing Joc Pederson with Lorenzo Cain or Victor Robles in the outfield. Spending his time in right field this past season, Pederson ended up with an Outs Above Average of 3. That ranks him 32nd amongst outfielders behind guys like Steven Duggar, Hunter Renfroe, and Brian Goodwin. Interestingly enough, he’s ranked ahead of players like Kevin Pillar and…Brett Gardner. Pederson is a solid defender who can competently man both corner outfield positions. The Yankees would be better served to have Mike Tauchman back up center while Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery.

The platoon splits are a legitimate concern. He has a career OPS of .572 with a slugging percentage of .310 against left handed pitchers. He has nine home runs against lefties versus 114 against righties. While these numbers are alarming, there may be some important context to consider.

The Dodgers fully believe in positional flexibility, versatility, and matchups. They are looking to create as many advantages as possible. This includes a heavy reliance upon platoons. Remember, they didn’t want Cody Bellinger facing lefties early on in his career. Bellinger is a top 5 hitter in the entire sport. Pederson only has 336 at bats against lefties. He has 1696 at bats against righties. We don’t actually know if Pederson can hit lefties because he hasn’t been given a fair chance to do so. This could be another Didi Gregorius situation.

Is There A Chance It Happens?

There is always the possibility of Ninja Cash swooping in and acquiring a player who is trending upwards. There are a lot of things to like about Pederson. He hits the ball hard. 40 home runs is a real possibility. There is a need for some lineup balance despite many people downplaying its importance. He provides solid defense. The Yankees believe in load management so providing Aaron Boone with another quality piece to rotate amongst Stanton, Voit, Tauchman, and Andújar is aggressive and smart. There is real Curtis Granderson 2.0 potential as Matt mentioned on Twitter. The Dodgers are clearly willing to move him in the right deal.

It just doesn’t feel like the Yankees will make the move. They certainly have the prospect capital to do it, but the team appears to be content with their roster heading into spring training. The team is also firmly over the third luxury tax threshold at $258 million according to Cots. An argument could be made that once a team surpasses the third luxury tax threshold it makes sense to blow by it since the tax penalty is set. It is a nice theory, but teams don’t operate that way in this day and age.

A Pederson trade during spring training would virtually eliminate any opportunity for the team to address potential issues that may pop up between now and the trade deadline. There are positions that may need more attention as the season progresses so positions like back up middle infielder or bullpen may be worth the added splurge.

Joc Pederson is a good player and could be even better in a full time role. The move is tantalizing. It is one the Yankees should strongly consider if not now than some further point in the season.

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37 Comments

  1. JG (Melky Mesa)

    I was thinking the same thing but they probably shouldn’t use their limited prospect capital on a total luxury in February.

    • Randy

      A few things: 1) Pederson is in his last year of team control so you’re not giving up the farm. 2) The Yankees probably have more attractive pieces than you think. 3) I always say we never really know what teams think of other teams’ players. We are influenced by public rankings, but organizations have profiles they like in players, their own data systems and scouting reports we’ll never see. 4) Pederson wouldn’t be a luxury. Their outfield depth is thin.

  2. MikeD

    Call up the Dodgers and find out what it would take to have Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling. The Dodgers seemed willing to move them last week and reports indicate it was the Angels who backed out of it.

  3. chip56

    This team thrived because of their depth last year. Their outfield depth this year is what, Mike Tauchman and Zack Granite? You can’t just count on being able to go out, claim Cameron Maybin for a few bucks, and then have him play like an All-Star. That’s not a plan, that’s luck.

    It seems like, once again, Hal’s bend but don’t break budget is preventing the team from making obvious moves that could improve them.

    • MikeD

      I see the point, although in fairness, we’d have said the same last year. We’re depending on Urshela? Ford? Tauchman and Maybin hadn’t even arrived yet.

  4. RetroRob

    His history is he can’t lefties at all. The Dodgers have limited him to about 50 ABs on average a year against them, barely putting up a.500 OPS against them last year. He’s not getting better against them either, with his numbers trending down. He’s inept vs. same-side pitchers going back through the minors. As comparison, Gardner is also bad against lefties and should be platooned if the other OFers could ever stay healthy, but Pederson’s OPS vs. lefties was almost 150 pts. WORSE than Gardner’s last year. Basically, if a lefty was brought in to face Pederson and Gardner was on the bench, you’d actually send Gardner up to pinch hit for Pederson.

    That all out of the way, I’m not saying they shouldn’t trade for him, just noting he has a rather significant weakness that has and likely always will prevent him from reaching the next level. Used correctly, as the Dodgers have, which is limiting his ABs vs. lefties and having him play the corner OF slots, means you can get the most value from him.

    One advantage is the new three-batter minimum, officially announced today, will work to Pederson’s advantage late in the game. Sandwich him between two righties, with Stanton behind him, and the opposing manager either can’t bring in a lefty to face Pederson, or the manager will have to risk that lefty facing Stanton, who crushes lefties. That’s exactly where I’d bat Pederson in the lineup. The main issue is finding ABs for him if they’re committed to Andujar getting ABs, as well as using the DH spot to rotate Stanton, Judge and Stanton through.

    As much as I’d like to see Pederson, I’d like to even more see Stripling added to the roster. Maybe a call to the Dodgers to get both.

    • RetroRob

      “,,,Stanton, Judge and Sanchez.” My point being that the Yankees likely will not have a set DH, although that’st he likely spot for Andjuar, and I expect many of Stanton’s appearances to be there, then add in probably 20-30 games for Sanchez DH’ing, resting Judge there occasionally, and you can see the issue of where to fit in Pederson regularly. Last year shows us somehow this all manages itself…for better or worse.

      • chip56

        I think it’s entirely possible that Urshela regresses back to the player he was pre-2019; in which case Andujar will be back at 3b.

        Beyond that, Boone has shown that even with a lineup that is less than full strength, he’s going to rotate players in and out of the lineup to keep everyone fresh. He’ll find at bats for Pederson if they brought him in.

        • RetroRob

          Chip, Urshela, Tauchman and Ford are all on my list for regression this year, especially if the ball is normalized. I’d add DJLM to that too, although I still think he’ll be productive at the plate and overall a very good player factoring in his defense. That is the biggest concern going into 2020. I’m not convinced their depth is as real as many assume if regression hits. It’ll be critical that the regulars stay healthy this year if my fear is correct, which I hope it isn’t.

          • chip56

            100% agree. The Yankees had a magical year where everyone who stepped in played like an all-star (except Kendrys). Odds of that being the case again are painfully low.

    • Randy

      Didi was terrible against lefties in the minors and was terrible at the start of his career. We really don’t know if Pederson can hit lefties because he never sees them. You can’t get better at something if you aren’t put in the position to do such a thing. Cody Bellinger also didn’t have great numbers against lefties in the minors and now he is a machine.

      • RetroRob

        Randy, I do think hitters can improve against lefties. It’s not uncommon at all for all hitters, but especially lefties, to struggle against lefty pitchers through the minors. Lefty batters don’t really ever face quality lefties on a consistent basis until they reach the majors. Paul O’Neill improved against them once he came to the Yankees. Didi did. Granderson did. Yet, not all hitters can adapt, and Pederson’s ABs against them are pretty ugly,. The Dodgers are a savvy organization and Pederson was a top prospect. I’m sure they’re worked hard to try and improve him, but he hasn’t shown improvement. Maybe a change of scenery, or a different approach by the Yankees might help. Can’t hurt! May only point is they should assume on acquisition that he can’t hit lefties and build his appearances around that.

        • Randy

          I know what your point is. I’m not dismissing it. The Dodgers are savvy, but they also actively manipulate match ups so they don’t want same side hitters versus same side hitters if they can control it. They didn’t work that hard because he simply doesn’t have the volume. I think they should assume that he can hit lefties because his data suggests it is possible and he didn’t get reps. It is very similar to Didi and Granderson.

          • RetroRob

            Randy, there’s only one way we’ll know. He’ll need to be traded to the Yankees!

    • chip56

      If they were willing to do Stripling, Joc, and a prospect to the Angels for Rengifo, maybe they would be willing to make a similar deal for Clint +

      • Randy

        I don’t think they need Stripling. They have plenty of guys for the fifth spot and Germán will be back. What do you do with Stripling once Paxton and Germán return?

        • chip56

          Use him as an upgrade from Cessa.

          • RetroRob

            Bingo. He’s a bit of a hybrid pitcher, with the Dodgers using him both as a starter and a reliever. He’s also low cost. I’m really surprised the Dodgers were even trying to move him. Frankly, the entire deal didn’t make sense. In regards to using maybe Clint, the main downside is the Dodgers seem to be trying to move an OFer so they’d be in essence swapping one OFer in Pederson for another one in Clint. The main advantage is cost for the Dodgers, which may be enough. Clint’s at barely league minimum with more years of control. Pederson is making close to $8M.

          • Randy

            Cessa was fine. He pitched in mainly low leverage situations. I’m not sure that is a spot that needs an upgrade. Also, the Yankees didn’t trade Clint for pitchers last year when they really needed pitching. I don’t think they trade Frazier to get an outfielder and a pitcher who isn’t definitively pitching in the rotation.

          • chip56

            At some point they need to poop or get of the pot with Clint. If he’s back in AAA for a third straight season then I think any value he had is just gone.

        • MikeD

          I didn’t see this before I posted note. I always lean toward adding starting pitcher depth, and in Stripling’s case he’s been quite good. Four years in the majors, all four years he’s pitched above league average. Career 3.60 FIP, made the All-Star team in one of the seasons. He can start if needed, but also has been effective in the pen. He’s basically what Ramiro Mendoza was for a short time and what many hoped Adam Warren would be. A true swingman and a decent one. He’s not expensive and he has three years of control remaining. At worst, he’s an improvement on the margins, and if there’s an injury to a starter he can step in as an effective option. Right now we have Happ as the 4th starter, and he might be even worse than last year. Monty is a question mark. German’s out until June. He’s not sexy, but he’d be a good addition. Toss Cessa into whatever deal they make to get him. Not that I actually expect a deal.

  5. DanGer

    NYY just announced they signed RHP Tony Zych. MiLB deal w/ ST invite.

    Good – really solid numbers in 2017
    Bad – last time he pitched was 2017

  6. DanGer

    He’s also making ~$8M and will be a FA after the season so it could be a test run. I’m assuming Raley makes him expendable to LAD.

    If anything I could see him more as a deadline pickup. Even with Hicks out there is more than enough competition. Then again they would losing out on the QO.

    • Randy

      Yeah I think there are very real positives to pursue a trade and it doesn’t have to happen tomorrow. I just think it is a move they should lock in on if/when they are ready to do such a thing. He would add a nice dimension to the team.

      • DanGer

        I was skeptical at first but it kinda makes sense in a vacuum.

        Where I’m stuck is where he’ll play. That’s normally a non-issue for me, but they have about 8 or 9 guys for 5 OF/1B/DH spots, not including Hicks and “half days off” for Sanchez, DJLM, Torres etc.

        I suppose you could argue he’s the X best player but I feel like there’s better ways to improve the margins (bullpen, infield, SP, etc.). And he’s a FA so it’s not a Didi/Hicks buy-low situation.

        • Randy

          Boone said today that Stanton’s primary at bats will be at DH. The outfield depth is thin as usual. I’m not really worried about that. They can figure that out. He’s also going to be better than any of the players they may bring in for those positions. It just feels like if an above average player may be available you pursue him and you can figure it out later.

  7. chip56

    Why make a move when you have 37 year old Brett Gardner to offer balance from the left side.

    • Randy

      True

      • chip56

        It really bothers me that this team made one positive addition and then spent the rest of the winter saying “well, everyone else got worse, we should have Stanton and Andujar back, and we can always fall back on guys like Urshela, Ford, and Tauchman…because journeymen always maintain career year performances”

        • Randy

          I tend to agree. I mean obviously the one move is really significant, but I would’ve liked some more moves to improve certain positions for sure. I think back up MI is a legit concern. I would like another relatively reliable bullpen piece and I clearly would like another outfielder. I don’t think this team is as good as it can potentially be, but there is time to address stuff.

          • chip56

            I feel like this has been their operating model for YEARS now. Penny wise, pound foolish. You’re one, maybe two moves away from moving from legit contender to clear #1 and you just stop and don’t do it. And, invariably, it’s that one move that comes up and bites the team in the butt every year.

          • Randy

            I don’t think I would go that far. They addressed their biggest weakness. I don’t think being a clear #1 gets you any closer to a title. The Nats won last year using like seven total pitchers and four bats in the lineup. The Yankees also lost to cheaters for
            three straight years. They’re going to be in it until the end.

          • I think Thairo would make a perfectly fine backup MI. In his cameo last year he hit for average and power.

          • Randy

            He had 64 at bats and over half of them resulted in contact on the ground.

        • DanGer

          Mostly agree but I think Cashman feels that a) injured players are additions and b) you can make moves until the TD.

          I know it’s not popular but they won 103 games without some or all of Cole, Sevvy, Stanton, Judge, Monty, Voit, & Heller. And Dellin/Didi/Bird as non-factors.

          And they added Tauchman (March), Maybin (April), Morales (May), & EE (June)

          • Randy

            Yes, I noted they probably won’t do it and they have time to assess. I also don’t think how ever they went about last season has any carryover to this year. They may not win 103 games this year with a stronger roster. It just comes back to acquiring really good players for as long a time as possible. He’s a better player than Mike Tauchman at this point in their careers.

  8. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    I don’t like it, Randy. He hits .240, strikes out too much and can’t play a lick of defense. Those are the types of hitters that cost us in the postseason the past few years. The power is nice but we can get just as much if not more power from Ford and Tauchman. You put him into a postseason series and he’s going to strike out 20 times like Edwin did. Ford and Tauchman you know are going to walk more and be more patient at the plate. That’s how we beat Pedro in ’03 and it’s always been a Yankee tradition to work the count. Joc just wouldn’t fit in.

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