Cubs get 1B prospect from Braves for Joc

July 16th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer made it clear last week that he was fielding calls on his players and listening was the prudent approach. Atlanta was one of the clubs reaching out.

On Thursday night, the Cubs completed a trade with the Braves, sending veteran outfielder Joc Pederson to Atlanta in exchange for power-hitting prospect Bryce Ball. It was the first domino in what is expected to be a busy couple of weeks for Chicago.

"It's a very different scenario than we expected. Life comes at you fast," said Hoyer, sitting in the dugout at Wrigley Field on July 8. "Obviously, 11 games certainly changes a lot of things."

Hoyer referred to the Cubs' recent 11-game losing streak, which sent the team tumbling out of first in the National League Central. On the eve of the second half, the North Siders (44-46) were in third and eight games back of the division-leading Brewers.

Before that string of defeats, the Cubs looked like potential buyers for the July 30 Trade Deadline. Now, Chicago's front office is not only in sell mode with players like Pederson, but the concept of breaking up the core group is an increasing possibility.

, and are each on pace for free agency at the end of this season. will follow them after the 2022 campaign, barring an extension or trade between now and then.

"My job is to make the best possible decision for the Cubs," Hoyer said. "Sometimes it's about the present and sometimes that decision is about the future. But that really is how I view it."

Pederson was signed to a one-year deal worth $7 million guaranteed (split between a $4.5 million salary in 2021 and a $2.5 buyout for a $10 million mutual option for '22). Atlanta will be on the hook for the outfielder's remaining salary this season and next year's option decision.

In 73 games for the Cubs, the 29-year-old Pederson hit .230 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs, while mostly playing left field and handling leadoff duties against righties. After a cold April, Pederson posted an .894 OPS in his next 38 games -- up to the point where his season OPS reached its peak at .787 on June 18.

In Ball (No. 12 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Atlanta prospect list), the Cubs are receiving a lefty-swinging first baseman with raw power as his standout skill. The 23-year-old Ball has struggled so far this year for High-A Rome (.207/.354/.396 through 53 games), but has warmed up of late (.905 OPS through 11 games in July).

Ball was picked by Atlanta in the 24th round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Dallas Baptist, where he was teammates with Cubs' 2020 second-rounder Burl Carraway. In his lone collegiate season, Ball hit .325 with 18 homers, a .614 slugging percentage and 1.057 OPS.

Ball's Pipeline scouting report notes that Atlanta, "went a bit over slot in the 24th round of the 2019 Draft to roll the dice that his power would play at the next level. He might have been the surprise of the class in terms of his pro debut."

In the Braves system in 2019, the 6-foot-6 Ball continued that collegiate success, hitting .329 with 17 homers, a .628 SLG and 1.023 OPS in 62 games between Rookie ball and Low-A.

That kind of prospect return for Ball could shed some light on how the Cubs plan to proceed with other complementary rental players potentially up for grabs. Beyond Pederson, lefty , outfielder and are each on cost-effective one-year deals with options for 2022.

Bryant and closer figure to be the most attractive trade chips for the Cubs over the next two weeks. All told, the Cubs have a dozen-plus players who could hit the open market next winter, making the list of trade candidates a lengthy one.

"You have to keep one eye on the future," Hoyer said, "and think about what moves you can potentially make that can help build the next great Cubs team. So yeah, I think you have to think through those things. I think it'd be irresponsible not to take those phone calls and think through it."