- Written by @Prime_VC on Twitter (Edited by Skye @BravesFromLA) 7/15/2021
Joc Pederson hitting for the Chicago Cubs (2021)
With the trade deadline looming, the Atlanta Braves made their first significant move traded #12 prospect Bryce Ball (1B) to the Chicago Cubs for OF Joc Pederson today. This trade points to the Braves being buyers at this years trade deadline, a move I don’t truly understand for a multitude of reasons.
Since the Braves are only 4 games behind the Mets, we can assume GM Alex Anthopoulos is trying to win the division by buying rather than looking towards next season and selling at the deadline. However, with a team that just lost its best player, and a brutal upcoming July schedule that includes series against the Rays, Padres, Mets, and Brewers, the Braves could easily fall well behind in the division.
Joc Pederson is a player who doesn’t move the needle for the Braves. He does add pop to the lineup, with 11 HRs on the season, but he has struggled as well, with a .718 OPS and a 95 wRC+. Meanwhile, Bryce Ball is a high upside 1B prospect with plenty of pop. Despite batting .207 with only 6 HRs on the year in High A Rome, the 23 year old Ball has a .354 OBP, .340 wOBA, and 112 wRC+ in 212 plate appearances. While some are concerned by Ball's high strikeout rate at A+ Rome and his higher-than-desired age for that level, his 70 grade raw power and intriguing high OBP numbers throughout his minor league career is not something I would give up in a trade for an underperforming rental in Joc Pederson.
The Braves have made it clear that they are looking to extend Freddie Freeman long term, it makes sense to trade a blocked prospect like Bryce Ball. However, trading him for a player of Pederson’s caliber is certainly underselling his upside. While Pederson does have an option for the 2022 season, it is a 10 million dollar mutual option, meaning both the team and player have to accept it. Considering the Braves cut Adam Duvall loose just last offseason because they believed 5 million would be an overpay for his services, it is hard to imagine the Braves would pick up Pederson's option for 10 million. On the bright side, Pederson is a player who shouldn’t damage the Braves budget in any significant way, earning $7 million guaranteed this season with a base salary of $4.5 million.
The main issue I have with this trade is that the Braves are a sub .500 team who just lost its best player in Ronald Acuña Jr. to a season ending ACL injury and face a brutal schedule after the all-star break. The Braves certainly face an uphill climb to winning the division that they have just committed to winning. This division is weak, that is well known. The Braves also look to get back SP Huascar Ynoa and starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud from injury relatively soon. Despite all of this, the Braves still have plenty of holes to fill if they want to win this competitive division. Trading for Joc Pederson doesn’t especially help on that front either. Even if the Braves miraculously sneak into the playoffs, they'd run into much stronger teams such as thee Dodgers, Padres, even the Brewers. Unless Joc Pederson has a breakout performance in Atlanta and decides to pick up his mutual option to stay here, I don’t see this trade being one that is very beneficial for GM Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves.