Braves outfielder Joc Pederson has declined his end of a $10MM mutual option in favor of a $2.5MM buyout, the Associated Press reports. Unlike teammate Adam Duvall, who also declined a mutual option this week, Pederson has more than six years of Major League service time and is thus a free agent now that he’s declined his end of the option.
Signed by the Cubs to a one-year deal last winter, Pederson was guaranteed $7MM in the form of a $4.5MM base salary and the $2.5MM buyout on the option he’s now declined. He can’t receive a qualifying offer by virtue of the fact that he was traded midseason (from Chicago to Atlanta), though it’s unlikely he’d have been a candidate for such an offer anyhow.
Pederson, 30 in April, posted similar overall numbers in 256 plate appearances with the Cubs and 173 plate appearances with the Braves, resulting in an overall .238/.310/.422 batting line on the season. He connected on 18 home runs, 19 doubles and three triples.
It’s perhaps encouraging that the left-handed-hitting Pederson, who has some longstanding struggles against left-handed pitching, hit lefties at a solid .265/.348/.378 clip in 2021 — albeit in a small sample of 112 plate appearances. However, it’s also concerning that his typically outstanding production against right-handers dwindled; in 369 plate appearances with the platoon advantage, Pederson slashed an uncharacteristically pedestrian .230/.298/.435.
When the page flipped to the postseason, the “Joctober” narrative took full effect, as Pederson clubbed a pair of pivotal pinch-hit home runs during Atlanta’s NLDS victory over the Brewers. Pederson homered early in the NLCS as well, but his bat went dormant for the remainder of the postseason, as he finished out the playoffs in a 2-for-26 swoon with a walk and eight strikeouts. It’s worth pointing out that, fun as the “Joctober” moniker may be, his career postseason line of .256/.332/.482 now quite closely resembles his lifetime .232/.332/.462 regular-season batting line.
Pederson will now head back out into what he hopes will be a healthier free agent market than he encountered last winter, when many clubs simply opted not to spend on the heels of a 2020 season played without ticket revenues. The expiring collective bargaining agreement will create similar uncertainty for free agents, but it’s likelier that teams will be more amenable to spending than they were last time around. Pederson’s 2021 showing didn’t exactly send his free-agent stock soaring, but it was still an improvement over a woeful .190/.285/.397 showing from that 2020 season. A multi-year deal seems possible, but with a fairly deep crop of corner outfielders available in free agency, he might settle for a second consecutive one-year pact.