San Francisco Giants: Joctober comes home

A little later than expected but here we are; baseball is finally upon us. 

With the 2022 campaign now officially underway teams have been scrambling to upgrade and tinker with their rosters. We’ve seen a flurry of activity all over the league and the San Francisco Giants have been busy pursuing every avenue to continue their recent success. Off the back of an NL West title and 107 wins, the Giants will need to be at their best once again to compete in the gauntlet that is the National League.

San Francisco didn’t waste any time once the lockout was over, quickly finalising a two-year, $44 million deal for former White Sox ace Carlos Rodon. The left-handed veteran instantly upgrades the Giants’ already strong rotation and takes some of the pressure off breakout star Logan Webb. All eyes will be on Rodon to hopefully repeat the results from his fantastic 2021 All-Star season: a 2.37 ERA, 183 ERA+, 4.9 WAR (per Fangraphs) and fifth-place finish in AL Cy Young voting.

With the pitching situation seemingly settled, Giants fans were still optimistic Farhan Zaidi and his team would add the big bat we’ve long been waiting for. A genuine superstar in the outfield perhaps, maybe one of those All-Star infielders still up for grabs.

Disappointingly, the mega moves thus far have all involved destinations away from Oracle Park. The rival Dodgers stole Freddie Freeman away from the Braves. Kris Bryant, the Giants’ splashy 2021 trade deadline acquisition, moved on to new pastures in Colorado, taking a huge payday with the Rockies. The Oakland A’s have decided to veto this season, trading away their best guys like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman.

In light of all this headline-smashing movement, San Francisco’s addition of Joc Pederson on a one-year deal for $6 million can be considered a little underwhelming, at first glance anyway. 

Pederson, a very effective outfielder with eight years of major league experience and two World Series rings all before his 30th birthday, will be a valuable asset to the Giants, no doubt. But he’s not Seiya Suzuki, the Japanese sensation who seemed destined to kickstart a dominant MLB career in the Bay Area, only to land in Chicago and spend his prime years on a rebuilding Cubs team.

Giants fans should know by now that Zaidi and his front office continue to operate in their own unique way, making moves we don’t usually foresee. The big money, multi-year signings are possibilities the Giants explore, of course, they do, but the efficient and clever roster-building that’s taken place over the past few years has been the team’s signature. And if 2021 was anything to go by, it’s been an immensely successful strategy so far.

So instead of dwelling on who the Giants don’t have, let’s instead focus on who they do have. What does Joc Pederson bring to San Francisco?

First and foremost, Pederson is a local boy, a product of Palo Alto, who grew up rooting for the Giants. Despite having been recently drafted by the Dodgers in 2010, Pederson made sure he was on Market Street to celebrate the Giants’ first-ever World Series parade in the city. So that connection is already established; Pederson gets it.

And the Giants get Pederson. Upon arriving at his new clubhouse, Pederson found his brand new locker coupled with one set aside for his older brother Champ, who lives with Down syndrome. Pederson was moved by the gesture and excitedly sent his brother a photo of the space that awaits him, decked out in orange and black. Pederson told Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, “It just shows the first-class organisation they are… You’ve only heard great things (about the Giants) and then I show up today. I mean, he’s going to be thrilled. It’s going to be an exciting time.”

On the field, Pederson appears to be a perfect fit in manager Gabe Kapler’s platoon system. Over the course of his career Pederson has provided plenty of pop but not much in terms of average, a career .232 hitter. Regardless, the Giants feel confident they can maximise Pederson’s offensive output, putting him in at-bats where he can succeed the most. Kapler has already proven he can work wonders by utilising the best match-ups, with players like LaMonte Wade Jr, Darin Ruf, Austin Slater and Steven Duggar all benefiting under Kapler’s leadership. Now that the National League will have the DH installed, there will be plenty of opportunities for Pederson to flourish.

When not pencilled in as the DH, Pederson will be deployed in a corner outfield spot and almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers, where he has enjoyed an .832 OPS and 123 wRC+ over his career. The Giants are expecting significant power out of the local boy and 137 of his 148 career home runs have come as a result of being deployed against righties. Fans will be hoping to see some splash hits into McCovey Cove in the not too distant future.

Finally, we come to the postseason sensation that is Joctober. Complete with pearl necklace and bleach blond hair, Pederson comes alive when the pressure is on and the lights are their brightest. He currently has a seven-year postseason streak, stretching back to his rookie year, and already has ambitions for the Giants this fall (it is an even year after all). In 79 playoff games and 218 plate appearances, Pederson has an .814 OPS with 12 home runs, many of them being absolutely vital to his team’s success. Writers and fans alike believe that if his Dodgers had beaten the Astros in 2017, Pederson likely would’ve taken home the World Series MVP (3 home runs and a 1.344 OPS).

The signing of Pederson is yet another low-risk, low-cost move right out of the Farhan Zaidi handbook. Pederson doesn’t need to be a superstar on a long-term deal for this San Francisco team to compete at the highest level; Pederson’s skillset complements the talent already on the roster. He provides a valuable puzzle piece in the Giants’ jigsaw towards 2022 contention. 

Most of all, Pederson is home.

Ash Day is the San Francisco Giants writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29

Photo credit for featured image by Casey Sykes/Getty Images.

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