The Chicago Cubs’ offseason has by and large been characterized by seller’s moves aiming to bolster the farm system and supplement the club’s future. Moves including trading ace pitcher Yu Darvish, non-tendering outfielder Kyle Schwarber and letting pitchers Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood walk in free agency have resulted in a massive slash in payroll and fleeting odds to defend the team’s 2020 NL Central division title.
That trajectory took a turn Friday morning, as the team inked slugging outfielder Joc Pederson to a one year $7 million contract. Pederson, a left-handed batter who primarily manned left field in his seven years with the Dodgers, will be 29 next season. His power hitting ability evidenced by a career .806 OPS should do well to fill the void left by Schwarber and his career .816 OPS. Defensive metrics show that his glove should actually be an upgrade to Schwarber’s as well.
Pederson also provides value in the form of defensive versatility, with over 412 games played in center field, 54 in right field and an additional 20 at first base. Much like his predecessor in left, he has had batting average struggles throughout his big-league career. Pederson’s seven-year total of .230 frankly isn’t very good, but he has consistently countered that drag with impressive slugging numbers. His career .470 slugging percentage likely played a huge role in Chicago emerging from their spending slumber to take a flyer on the upside.
Pederson’s signing came just hours before reports that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts had approved an increased budget for player acquisition. If true, these reports may indicate that Pederson won’t be the last surprise signing before the club begins Spring Training next month. After the departure of four out of five pitchers in the starting rotation, Zach Davies has been the only surefire replacement brought in thus far. Pitcher Kohl Stewart was signed earlier this week to compete for a starting spot, but even still the Cubs have a lot of innings left to fill.
Could a reunion with 2015 NL Cy Young Jake Arrieta be in the cards? Perhaps Chicago would prefer to take a flyer on a younger arm such as Taijuan Walker. Of course, we’re still not sure how much (if any) more funds have been allocated to new GM Jed Hoyer, but it’s safe to say that a megadeal for the likes of ace Trevor Bauer is still off the table. Nevertheless, the signing of Pederson is a positive sign that the team could still compete in 2021 and a welcome bone thrown to the fans after a long, frustrating offseason.
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