Far more has gone wrong than right for the 2022 Giants, but the team’s offseason signing of outfielder Joc Pederson to a one-year, $6MM contract has proven to be a shrewd investment. Pederson has hit well in his first season as a Giant, and he’s apparently made a good impression on the organization in all facets, as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said in an appearance on KNBR’s Tolbert & Copes show yesterday that he’s had discussions with Pederson and his agent about re-signing him (link to full 23-minute interview).
“We’d love to have him back next year,” Zaidi said when asked what the future held for Pederson. “We’ve talked some to his representative. I’ve talked to Joc about it himself. He’s from here. He’s played well. He was an All-Star for us.”
Pederson, 30, has indeed enjoyed a strong year in San Francisco. The Palo Alto native has appeared in 107 games, tallied 348 plate appearances and slashed .263/.339/.519 with 20 home runs, 17 doubles and three stolen bases (in five attempts). He’s walked at an 8.6% clip, and this year’s 21.6% strikeout rate is his lowest mark since 2019 (and tied for the third-lowest of his career). The Giants have shielded him from lefties almost entirely — he has just 46 plate appearances against same-handed opponents — but that’s nothing new for Pederson, who carries just a .210/.285/.334 batting line against southpaws (compared to .240/.342/.494 against righties).
It’s been the best offensive showing for Pederson since his career-high 36 home runs back in 2019, but defensive metrics on the slugger are down across the board. Each of Defensive Runs Saved (-7), Ultimate Zone Rating (-6.6) and Outs Above Average (-6) are critical of Pederson’s glovework. He’s also spent 10 games at designated hitter for the Giants, though, and Pederson’s pop against right-handed pitching is plenty sufficient to fill that role if the Giants are concerned about his defensive work moving forward.
If Pederson does reach the market, he’ll be one of the more appealing options on a fairly thin market for corner outfield bats. Aaron Judge, of course, is the top free agent on the market, and Andrew Benintendi will be in a nice position heading into his age-28 season on the heels of a strong all-around showing. Beyond that pairing, Pederson will slot into the next tier alongside names like Mitch Haniger, Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar (who seems likely to opt out of the final year of his Padres contract).
As with any potential free agent, Pederson’s return (or his departure) is largely dependent on the context of the roster around him. In-house outfield options for the Giants next year include Austin Slater, LaMonte Wade Jr., Luis Gonzalez and Mike Yastrzemski — to say nothing of prospects Heliot Ramos, Luis Matos and Vaun Brown. Ramos and Matos, however, have had down seasons in the minors, just as Yastrzemski has in the big leagues. Struggles notwithstanding, however, Zaidi implied that the team plans to tender a contract to Yastrzemski in arbitration this winter and retain him for the 2023 campaign.
“It’s just been a down season for him,” Zaidi said of Yastrzemski. “He’s been frustrated. Last year, the batting average wasn’t there but he still hit 25 homers, so you still had offensive production in a certain way. He’s still a guy who brings a ton of intangibles to the table. He’s a great defensive player. We view him as part of this team going forward, and I know he’s going to be as motivated as anybody to come back strong next year.”
Yastrzemski, who just turned 32 a couple weeks ago, will be due a raise on this year’s $3.7MM salary but has stumbled to a .203/.303/.361 batting line in 439 plate appearances. He’s still drawing walks at a strong 11.6% clip, however, and Yastrzemski’s strikeout rate, exit velocity, hard-hit rate and broader batted-ball profile are all quite similar to his prior, more productive seasons.
The Giants can control Yastrzemski for three more years beyond the current campaign, so there’s good reason to place a reasonably low-cost bet on a rebound if the team doesn’t believe his skill set has begun to decline. That said, both Yastrzemski and Pederson are left-handed hitting outfielders who could require platoon partners — Yastrzesmki has struggled severely against lefties in each of the past two seasons — so the extent to which the Giants again want to lean on a platoon, matchup-based outfield set will drive the decisions on both players. For the time being, it sounds as though the Giants are open to again leaning heavily on both lefties in the outfield again next season.