What Joc Pederson brings to the SF Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bengie Molina was eating an ice cream sandwich. It was an hour before the first pitch. Joc Pederson, then a Palo Alto high school senior, had his first taste of big league life after being dragged into the Giants clubhouse by a family friend.

“I’m like, ‘The major leagues are the best! It’s amazing,” Pederson, 29, recalled Thursday from inside another Giants clubhouse, the newly renovated one inside Scottsdale Stadium, where he arrived that morning after signing a one-year, $6 million deal with the hometown club.

Since that seminal moment in 2010 – jumping the railing of the then AT&T park, meeting Pablo Sandoval, who gave him a pair of batting gloves without knowing they would team up a decade later in Atlanta – Pederson has racked up a rich playoff experience and refined a powerful left-side-of-the-plate swing, two qualities the Giants hope can complement a team that won 107 games last season and is aiming for something more than a first-round exit from the playoffs.

“I think he’ll fit right in at our clubhouse,” said Alex Wood, who reunited with Pederson after four years with the Dodgers from 2015-2018. “He’s not afraid of the spotlight. He likes big moments and he tends to do well. He is the kind of player we are looking for and need in our clubhouse.

Pederson has made the playoffs in each of his seven professional seasons, including four trips to the World Series. He rose to prominence last season during the Braves’ World Series race for wearing pearls around his neck and wore a black pearl necklace, just under a head of bleached blonde hair styled in a messy mohawk, so that he was taking his first batting practice. cuts inside Scottsdale Stadium.

“He’s pure entertainment all the time,” Wood said. “It’s just Joc, man. He likes to have a good time and likes to play ball.

On the same day Pederson signed his deal, however, the Giants’ path to the playoffs was made more difficult by a few splashy signings within their division. The Rockies paid $182 million for Kris Bryant, while the Dodgers gave Freddie Freeman $160 million. The Giants, meanwhile, seem content going into the season with Pederson as their main roster upgrade, which is losing Bryant and Buster Posey.

“From a roster perspective, it suits us really well, the way Kap manages the roster and tries to match,” said Farhan Zaidi, president of baseball operations for the Giants. “He was one of the best power hitters against right-handers in his entire career at the big league level. … We still really believe in talent. When he’s in the batting box, he can do things in the batting box that few guys at the big league level can do. …On pure ability, he ranks highly on our list. It’s just our responsibility and his responsibility to get him out of this.

Under Zaidi, the Giants have not given a contract worth more than the $44 million they promised Carlos Rodon or longer than the three years they committed to Anthony DeSclafani. Avoiding costly long-term deals may seem like an organizational philosophy at this point, but Zaidi has firmly refuted that impression.

“That’s just not the case,” Zaidi said. “We talked a lot about the benefits of flexibility. But there is no absolute rule regarding the maximum number of years or the maximum of dollars. We have certainly made offers beyond these figures. … There are big free agents and one team signs them and 29 don’t. You are going to be among the 29 more than you are the one doing it. …that’s not to say there aren’t players getting big deals that we’d love to have and have been involved with.

Zaidi said the Giants, whose payroll currently stands at about $135 million, below last season’s total and nearly $100 million below the luxury tax threshold, have the flexibility financial to add more parts, but have indicated that the group they have is more or less the one they will start the season with.

“I think we’re at a point now where we’re going to have a discussion about a player and you have to say, well, who’s going off the roster; who’s losing at bats?” Zaïdi said. our list right now. Any additions at this price.

The deal with Pederson was so obvious it almost happened a year ago. Zaidi, whose relationship with Pederson dates back to their time in Los Angeles, pursued Pederson last offseason, but the outfielder opted for a day-to-day role in Chicago and was eventually traded to Atlanta.

Finally, playing for the team he grew up on – yes, he confirmed he was a Giants fan as a kid, despite his dad spending 12 years in the Dodgers organization – was ‘surreal’ , Pederson said. Now an adult, Pederson has two children of his own and both sets of their grandparents reside in the Bay Area.

When Pederson arrived at the clubhouse on Thursday morning, he was greeted by a locker next to his for his brother, Champ, who has Down syndrome and played a major role in Pederson’s life.

“I sent him a photo. … He’s going to be thrilled,” Pederson said. good things, so I show up today and his locker is there….I think that shows the first class organization they are.

On the field, Pederson has a long history of right-handed throwing shuffling — a career .832 on base plus slugging — but struggled to replicate the same success with the Dodgers in 2020 and again in 2021. Pederson finished 2021 with a .238/.310/.422 batting line and did no better against lefties.

The Giants will place Pederson in their outside corner spots and designated hitter. They’re hoping that by minimizing his exposure to lefties, they can extract the same type of production that led to 123 home runs in his first four major league seasons.

As Pederson struggled to secure his own “prove it” deal last season, it was hard not to notice the success of other players in San Francisco, whether it was Brandon Crawford’s career year or the escapes such as Darin Ruf.

“Farhan and Gabe have built an incredible culture and environment here that accommodates all personalities,” Pederson said. “You could definitely see it from the outside looking inside. I wanted to be a part of it and do everything we could to win another World Series here.”

Pederson was drafted by the Dodgers in 2010, between his taste of big league life and the Giants’ World Series title in October. Returning home after a short introductory stint with the Dodgers rookie league team, Pederson gathered his friends from Palo Alto and headed north to Market Street for the Giants parade. ‘ World Series.

Twelve years later, Pederson appeared in the last two ticker parades as a member of the Braves last season and in his final year with the Dodgers in 2020.

Pederson is optimistic about the chances of a third parade in as many years. And observer.

“I grew up in the Bay Area,” he said. “2022 is an even year.”

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