Arguably the biggest offseason acquisition of the offseason for Chicago, Joc Pederson will play a key role for the team in 2021.
The longtime Dodgers outfielder signed a one-year deal with the Cubs that included an option for 2022 earlier this month. He’ll replace Kyle Schwarber as the team’s starting left fielder. Since the signing, we’d all assumed Chicago would platoon Pederson with someone like Phillip Ervin or even deploy Kris Bryant out there on days lefties pitched.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
But apparently, that’s not the plan.
In a piece for the Player’s Tribune, Pederson detailed his conversation with manager David Ross. Here’s what Ross had to say about the 28-year-old outfielder’s role in 2021.
"“You’re going to be our guy in left field, save for the occasional rest day, same as anyone. But if we’re at the All-Star break and you’re hitting a buck fifty, you know….. we’re going to reassess. We’ll probably have to make a change.”"
This comes as a surprise for most of us who have delved into Pederson’s numbers in his career. Similar to Schwarber, he excels almost primarily against right-handed pitching. Lefties have always been an issue for him, but apparently the Cubs are willing to let him work through those struggles on a daily basis.
Cubs willing to let Joc Pederson figure it out – something LA never did
In his career, Pederson carries a .238/.349/.501 in 2,132 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. The Dodgers clearly never had a lot of faith in him against southpaws, though, evidenced by the fact he has only 385 plate appearances against them – in which he’s hit just .191/.266/.310.
Writing in his piece, Pederson noted that he received other offers for a platoon role. But he wanted the opportunity to play every day, regardless of who was on the mound, and the Cubs were willing to give him that chance. But watching him work through things against lefties could make an offense that was pretty awful against left-handers last year even worse in 2021.
Jason Heyward’s struggles against southpaws are well-documented. Last season, Ross stuck to the numbers and kept his veteran outfielder away from those less-than-ideal matchups. This year, I suspect he’ll do the same with Ervin, who’s historically been a strong bat against lefties. But besides Ervin, the Cubs don’t really have an everyday outfielder who can handle left-handed pitching.
We’ve seen players work through this given the opportunity in the past. But it’s not always pretty and requires a lot of patience – on the part of the player, team and the fanbase. Let’s hope Pederson is up for the challenge and can become an offensive anchor for Chicago moving forward.