Braves get slugging OF Pederson from Cubs

July 16th, 2021

ATLANTA -- won’t be as dynamic as , but he’ll now spend the next couple months attempting to compensate for the significant power the Braves lost when Acuña suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.

The Braves announced they acquired Pederson in exchange for first-base prospect on Thursday. The acquisition of a power-hitting, veteran outfielder was completed five days after Acuña tore his right anterior cruciate ligament.

“There are still a lot of teams out there still in the hunt and still contending,” Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said. “If there’s things out there we can add, we’ll look to do it. I know we’ve had our challenges, but I think everyone in our division has. So this one made sense for us, and we jumped on it.”

Pederson hit just .230 with 11 home runs and a .718 OPS in 287 plate appearances for the Cubs this year. He’s not necessarily a difference maker, but he’s certainly much better than or , the two bench pieces who likely would have needed to fill Acuña’s void.

Braves manager Brian Snitker might choose to sit Pederson against some left-handed pitchers. But for now, the 29-year-old is expected to serve as the Braves’ primary right fielder.

Pederson platooned throughout most of his career with the Dodgers. Against lefties this year with the Cubs, he hit .271 with zero homers, a .687 OPS and a 25.8% strikeout rate in 66 plate appearances. In 218 plate appearances against right-handers this season, Pederson has hit .218 with 11 homers, a .727 OPS and a 25.8% strikeout rate.

Pederson hit a career-best 36 homers in 2019 and then produced a respectable rate of 17.3 at-bats per home run during last year’s shortened season. There seemed to be some mutual interest as the Braves pursued the upbeat and likeable outfielder this winter. But he ended up signing a one-year, $7 million deal with the Cubs.

Anthopoulos had a chance to be around Pederson while working in the Dodgers’ front office during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

“He's a high-energy guy and a great clubhouse guy who comes in with a smile on his face every day,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s someone who if he gets hot, he can carry you. He hasn’t really had that hot streak yet, but he’s certainly capable of doing that. He’s still young, and his raw power is as good as you’re going to find.”

Pederson’s deal includes a $4.5 million base salary for this year and a $10 million mutual option that includes a $2.5 million buyout for the 2022 season.

So unless Pederson impresses enough to influence exercising his option, this deal will cost the Braves approximately $4.3 million in pro-rated salary and the buyout. That’s a price this team was willing to make as it enters the second half without Acuña and just four games behind the first-place Mets in the National League East.

“Our focus right now,” Anthopoulos said, “is as banged up as we’ve been, if we can add where it makes sense, we’ll certainly look to do it.

“Every game counts. I think any time we can strengthen the ballclub, we’re going to look to do it.”