What Joc signing says about D-backs' future

February 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Steve Gilbert's D-backs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The D-backs made the  signing official on Tuesday, adding yet another piece -- though maybe not the final one -- to their roster, as they hope to build off of last season’s dream postseason run.

The one-year deal includes a mutual option for 2025 and is worth at least $12.5 million. Pederson will make $9.5 million in '24, and he will receive a $3 million buyout if he and the team don’t both exercise the $14 million option for '25.

Pederson's addition comes after the D-backs signed free-agent lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, re-signed outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and traded for third baseman Eugenio Suárez.

Here are some of my takeaways from the Pederson signing:

The D-backs weren’t complacent this winter 

It would have been easy for Arizona not to do a whole lot this offseason. After making the World Series last year, the club could have tried to sell fans on the fact that such a young team would inevitably improve on its own instead of spending big on the market.

Instead, general manager Mike Hazen and his staff took a cold, hard look at the 2023 season and saw a team that was outscored overall and still managed to slip into the postseason by just one game.

Give Hazen credit for realizing he had to make the team better, and give ownership credit for greenlighting the baseball-operations staff to take the Opening Day payroll to heights it has never been at.

“We're very appreciative that we've had the opportunity -- even amidst coming off of the World Series -- to go out and improve our roster,” Hazen said. “I think it matters in the clubhouse, incredibly, that those guys see the commitment that's being laid out there. And I know -- being down even in the training room on a daily basis [this winter] -- you can hear how appreciative the guys are. But we'll see. That doesn't mean you're going to win any more games.”

The coaching staff was a selling point for Pederson 

The D-backs have a well-respected coaching staff -- no one more so than first-base/outfield/baserunning coach Dave McKay.

Pederson is not known as a good defender, but he said in a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday that he wants to get better in the outfield, and he believes McKay can help with that.

“I've gotten to know him over the years, playing against him,” Pederson said. “I've heard so many good things and seen it in action. I’ve seen him help lot of guys steal a good amount of bases that aren't necessarily speedsters. I've seen him make huge improvements in the outfield with some guys that weren't as good, and I've seen him really lock in some of the guys that are more skilled.

“So even if I don't get a lot of opportunities on the field, I'll be putting the work in with him. Then when the opportunities present themselves, [I'll] make the best of them and go from there.”

It wasn’t the only mention of the coaches from Pederson. Watching the D-backs play from the opposing dugout for the past two seasons with the Giants, he noticed something else.

“The coaching staff seems incredible,” Pederson said. “I mean, to maintain the standard throughout the whole 162 [games], I don’t think it’s any fluke [that the D-backs reached the World Series].”

There is going to be a lot of competition this spring 

Competition has been a buzzword for Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo since their first spring with the D-backs in 2017. Since then, there have been some competitive camps, but this year’s is really going to be something.

From the outfield (with guys like Jake McCarthy, Pavin Smith and No. 11 prospect Dominic Fletcher) to the infield (headlined by No. 1 prospect Jordan Lawlar, Emmanuel Rivera, Jace Peterson and Kevin Newman) to the pitching staff (which has too many names to list), there will be a lot of players fighting for few spots.

That’s important because sometimes there may be a natural letdown among players following a successful season, but no one can afford that this spring.

It also speaks well to the depth the D-backs will have to draw from during the season, as injuries and slumps are unavoidable.

And Hazen might not be done adding yet.

While he said that most of the heavy lifting is probably over, there are still some areas he’d like to add help in, including the bullpen and potentially another right-handed bat to compete for a spot.

It’s going to be a fun spring to watch, with plenty of good storylines. It starts in less than two weeks.