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Surveying the D-backs landscape after the Joc Pederson signing

Where does the team stand?

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks got their designated hitter, with the news yesterday that the team had signed Joc Pederson to a $9.5m contract with a mutual 2025 option. The 31-year-old Pederon spent the last two years with the San Francisco Giants on a pair of one-year deals. After signing for $6 million, he had a great 2022, with an OPS+ of 146. That got him a sharp increase in salary, as the Giants opted to give him a qualifying offer, which he accepted, thereby earning $19.65 million last year. But the results were not as good, the OPS dropping to 111. The good news for Arizona is, there was an awful lot of red on his Baseball Savant page, such as Pederson being in the 96th percentile for hard-hit balls.

Where will Pederson play?

If the D-backs have any sense, then they will do everything in their power to keep Joc from putting a glove on. The last time his dWAR was in positive territory was back in 2016, and you’d be forgiven for having flashbacks to the nightmare of Operation Trumbo Drop, or any of the other slugger to have patrolled the outfield - for some loose definition of “patrolled” - at Chase Field over the past few years. The good news is, we now have the DH spot in which these traffic-cones in human form can be placed. That’s how Pederson was used by the Giants last year, with only 23 starts in the outfield, compared to 72 at designated hitter. I’d expect the ratio to be even more skewed towards DH in 2024.

The other factor to take into account is that the left-handed hitting Pederson has always skewed very heavily in his platoon splits. Last season, he hit .241/.351/.435 for a .786 OPS against right-handed pitching, but only .186/.327/.279 off southpaws, a .606 OPS. That difference is actually smaller than over his career as a whole. I’d expect him to start virtually every game at DH when there’s a right-handed opposing starter. When there isn’t, it may be on a case-by-case basis. Lourdes Gurriel saw more PA at the DH spot than anyone else for the D-backs in 2023, and as a rightie, could fit the bill. However, that would likely leave an all left-handed outfield of Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas.

It might make more sense to use an infielder, because of the eight in that category on the 40-man roster, we have five RHB and two switch hitters (Ketel Marte + Gerardo Perdomo). [The only left-hander is Jace Peterson, and... yeah] So we could spare a right-handed or switch bat for the DH role, and still get the platoon advantage at most positions.

The Opening Day roster

Presuming there’s a 13/13 split between position players and pitchers, here’s what it currently looks like we will have as the former for the D-backs, come the first game of the season.

  • C. Gabriel Moreno R
  • 1B. Christian Walker R
  • 2B. Ketel Marte S
  • SS. Gerardo Perdomo S
  • 3B. Eugenio Suarez R
  • LF. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. R
  • CF. Alek Thomas L
  • RF. Corbin Carroll L
  • DH. Joc Pederson L
  • Bench: Tucker Barnhart L
    Jake McCarthy L
    Emmanuel Rivera R
    Jace Peterson L

The front nine looks fairly solid. However, the back-end of the above is, as ever, liable to change. We might see Dominic Fletcher or Pavin Smith instead of Peterson or Rivera. One problem is that those two are both out of options, and their skill-set as a back-up to Suarez at 3B is a little too similar for us to need both. Peterson hits from the other side (for some loose definition of “hitting”), so that gives him an edge. May be a case where Arizona try to sneak one or the other through waivers, late in spring training. That could open up a slot for NRI Kevin Newman or Blaze Alexander, since the above roster doesn't have a backup for Perdomo at short. Makakilo is looking at that in more detail next week.

But in general, I like the balance. Five righties, six lefties and two switch hitters will give Lovullo a good set of options and should ensure a platoon advantage more often than not.

Payroll considerations

Earlier this month, Jack had the Diamondbacks payroll at $137.3 million. Different sources show different figures, e.g. Spotrac is at $128.2 million, but that doesn’t seem to include anything for pre-arb players. Throwing ten slots in at league minimum ($740K), the number comes up closer to $136 million. I tend to go with Jack, who does a better job of showing his working. :) Adding $9.5 million for Pederson takes us up to $146.8m, which would be the highest amount in unadjusted dollars ever for Arizona. As I expected, ownership has responded to last year's success by opening the purse-strings to a significant degree, though naturally, some fans are still calling them "cheap" for not signing J.D. Martinez.

While $9.5 million seems "cheap" for Pederson, the deal has a mutual option for 2025 at $14 million, with a $3m buyout. Mutual options rarely get exercised: if a player plays well enough for the team to want it, the player likely wants to test the market, and vice-versa. So including the buyout, this should be considered as paying $12.5 million for one season of Joc's services, just spread over two years in payments. Not quite the 96% deferral some outfielders got. :)

Conclusion

It certainly addresses the need for a designated hitter, and 2024 will be the first time the D-backs have an “everyday” option there. Until now, no Arizona player has ever appeared more than 50 times in a season as DH. Health permitting, Pederson should beat that figure before the All-Star break. But I expect there to be a lot of scoreboard watching, especially in the early weeks, as we look to see how the likes of Martinez, Jorge Soler, Rhys Hoskins, etc. do with whatever teams they end up playing for. Might end up doing a monthly check-in, updating Jack’s chart of projections with the actual numbers posted by Pederson and the alternative contenders.

Did Mike Hazen make the “right” choice. Check back in eight months and I’ll tell you.

Poll

The Joc Pederson signing is...

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Great!
    (35 votes)
  • 49%
    Good
    (216 votes)
  • 35%
    Meh...
    (157 votes)
  • 4%
    Poor
    (21 votes)
  • 2%
    Terrible!
    (9 votes)
438 votes total Vote Now