Coming off a World Series, the Braves had a plethora of free agents they had to make decisions on, and not all of them could be retained. One of the more polarizing figures was Joc Pederson, who was largely responsible for changing the vibes in the clubhouse after he was acquired via trade, but he also had quite the impact on the field, particularly in the playoffs.
However, it always seemed like the Braves’ relationship with Joctober would be short-lived. He’s made it overwhelmingly clear over the last couple of years that he wants to be an everyday player, which was always going to be unlikely in Atlanta, where he served in a platoon role. Because of that, Pederson took even less money to sign a one-year deal with the Giants, while the Braves hung onto NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario on a two-year pact — a decision that could be one Alex Anthopoulos regrets for quite a while.
Before I continue, I want to make it known this isn’t a hit piece on Rosario. He’s started off the season about as terribly as anyone I can remember, hitting just .068 with an OPS+ of -21 (which is 121% below league average); however, there looks to be a reason for that. It was announced late last night that Rosario will be undergoing laser eye surgery and will miss the next two months of the season. That’s unfortunate, but it’s also something that nobody could have seen coming, so I’m not blaming Rosario or Anthopoulos. Still, regardless of whether the Braves brought back Rosario or not, it’s become apparent over the first three weeks of the season that a higher priority should have been placed on Pederson.
In 14 games with the Giants, Pederson leads all players in slugging with a .784 mark. He’s also hitting .362 with six homers and a 1.179 OPS — a key reason why San Francisco is 12-5 and keeping pace with the Dodgers in the NL West.
Pederson will eventually slow down and regress closer to his career numbers, but even just 17 games into the season, it already feels like something is missing from this Braves team. And it’s not talent… It’s energy. Pederson’s vibes should be transported to Cooperstown once he finally decides to hang it up. You can’t put a price tag or describe it with a stat line, but it couldn’t be more noticeable when watching the teams he plays on. The numbers he puts up are just icing on the cake, and when we’re talking about a measly one-year, $6 million contract, It’s evident the Braves should have made bringing him back more of a priority.
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