Why Cubs' Jed Hoyer is excited about Joc Pederson ‘betting on himself’

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Maddie Lee
·3 min read
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Why Hoyer is excited about Pederson ‘betting on himself’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

A call from Joc Pederson lit up Jed Hoyer’s phone, connecting a serendipitous string of events.

The Cubs president of baseball operations had texted with Pederson, a former Dodgers outfielder, earlier in the winter. They’re connected through friends. But as Pederson laid out in his Players Tribune essay last week, he was the one who reached out to suggest they team up.

“I was excited about it,” Hoyer said in a Zoom press conference this week, “because I liked the fact that he was taking control of the situation.”

With one week until Spring Training, Pederson remains the Cubs’ biggest free agent signing of the offseason. He fills the hole left by Kyle Schwarber, who signed with the Nationals after the Cubs non-tendered him.

Part of the appeal of the Cubs for Pederson was the chance to play every day, after serving in a platoon role for most of his MLB career.

“I loved the tone of his voice about betting on himself,” Hoyer said. “That's something that really resonates. He felt like he didn't put up the numbers he wanted last year, I think he felt like he was being painted with a brush that he didn't want to be painted with, and his goal was to find a place where he could go out and prove it. And we had a spot wide open.”

Pederson, it seems, also had good timing. Hoyer described the Cubs’ budget as a “range” at the beginning of the offseason. This week, he confirmed that they’d started the winter at the low end of that range. But as time went on, and the business side got “good news,” they shifted to the higher end.

Hoyer anticipates that the Cubs will continue to add to payroll over the next week or so as they “round out” the roster.

So, when Pederson called Hoyer the morning after a bolt of inspiration, the Cubs were in a position to bet on him too.

“Unreal conversation,” Pederson wrote in The Players’ Tribune. “We’re even more on the same page than I could have anticipated.”

Pederson is also the biggest change to a Cubs lineup whose late-season struggles and Wild Card exit were connected to an offensive lull. So, how much of difference can his addition make?

Pederson’s career numbers are eerily similar to Schwarber’s. The left-handed batters have identical batting averages (.230) and on-base percentages (.336). Schwarber has the edge in slugging percentage (.480/.470), and his platoon splits are less extreme. Pederson signed with the Cubs for $3 million less than Schwarber signed with the Nationals ($10 million).

“When you look at the aggregate numbers, they look fairly similar,” Hoyer said. “But I think that their strengths are different.”

Before last season, Pederson had cut his strikeout rate to below 22 percent, right around league average, for three straight seasons. It rose to 24.6 percent last year, but nowhere close to his career-worst mark his rookie year (29.1).

“He also hits the high fastball really well,” Hoyer added, “and it's something we struggle with as a team.”

Hoyer expects Pederson’s opposite-field power will play well at Wrigley Field, which is shallow out to left-center. Pederson’s .128 career batting average at Wrigley doesn’t support Hoyer’s optimism yet, but that’s with just 39 at-bats in the Friendly Confines.

When Hoyer connected Pederson with manager David Ross, according to Pederson the first words out of the skipper’s mouth were: ““Woah! You just made my offseason.”

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