Giants Quietly Upgrade With Joc Pederson and Matthew Boyd

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants continued to fly under the radar Wednesday night, signing outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Matthew Boyd to one-year deals. Boyd will receive $5.2 million in 2022, and Pederson will snag $6 million of his own. Neither of these deals makes the impressive splash that acquiring one of the Oakland Matts or Freddie Freeman (now starring for the division-rival Dodgers) does, but they both incrementally improve San Francisco’s roster without spending a princely sum or requiring a long-term commitment.

Pederson made enough of a splash in 2021 to make the term “Joctober” a thing, but the larger problem in recent years has been his Jocpril to Joctember performance. Through 2019, his age-27 season, his career line was at a healthy .233/.339/.474, respectable for a corner outfielder who can fake center field a bit, though with the caveat that he needed to be protected against left-handed pitching. But he’s struggled since the start of 2020, hitting .238/.310/.422 over 180 games, well off his career numbers up to that point. If Pederson had hit free agency after the 2019 season, ZiPS projected that he would have received a four-year deal worth $74 million, so his decline has been sharper and at a younger age than typical.

As a role player who can carefully be used in a platoon, the Giants are a good home for him. Manager Gabe Kapler has shown an admirable ability to mix and match situation players to get the most value of their performance. Earl Weaver’s Orioles lineups were full of players like this, such as Terry Crowley, John Lowenstein, Jim Dwyer, Pat Kelly, and Gary Roenicke, none of whom you wanted to see play 150 games a year on their own most years, but all of whom had some standout skill that could be used to leverage runs. The Giants overall had an average outfield with a combined wRC+ of 101, impressive for a team that only really had one real starter in Mike Yastrzemski. In the end, the Giants were one of the best teams in baseball at getting the platoon advantages with their offense.

Hitter Platoon Advantage, 2021
Team Advantage PA Total PA %
Arizona Diamondbacks 4161 6144 67.7%
Detroit Tigers 3991 5979 66.8%
Tampa Bay Rays 3856 6213 62.1%
Pittsburgh Pirates 3664 5983 61.2%
New York Mets 3529 5856 60.3%
San Francisco Giants 3601 6196 58.1%
Chicago White Sox 3525 6084 57.9%
Cleveland Guardians 3408 5907 57.7%
Seattle Mariners 3346 6010 55.7%
Minnesota Twins 3373 6078 55.5%
Milwaukee Brewers 3385 6100 55.5%
Texas Rangers 3232 5943 54.4%
Chicago Cubs 3221 5972 53.9%
Philadelphia Phillies 3275 6089 53.8%
Baltimore Orioles 3212 5983 53.7%
Oakland Athletics 3217 6104 52.7%
San Diego Padres 3177 6119 51.9%
Kansas City Royals 3091 5993 51.6%
Washington Nationals 3149 6113 51.5%
Boston Red Sox 3113 6120 50.9%
Cincinnati Reds 3115 6162 50.6%
Atlanta Braves 3015 6056 49.8%
Los Angeles Dodgers 3094 6239 49.6%
Colorado Rockies 2863 6007 47.7%
Los Angeles Angels 2805 6016 46.6%
Miami Marlins 2761 5929 46.6%
Houston Astros 2836 6290 45.1%
New York Yankees 2729 6060 45.0%
St. Louis Cardinals 2683 6001 44.7%
Toronto Blue Jays 2315 6069 38.1%

San Francisco ranked sixth in hitter platoon advantage in 2021, but it’s even more impressive when considering that they managed without switch-hitters for almost the entire season. The five teams ahead of the Giants in this chart had switch-hitters getting anywhere from 787 plate appearances (Rays) to 2,292 (Tigers). Kapler’s only switch-hitter was Skye Bolt, who only went up to the plate once during the season. In the platoon game, he was simply playing on a higher difficulty setting.

ZiPS Projection – Joc Pederson
2022 .236 .314 .440 416 60 98 19 3 20 65 40 2 102 2 1.3

As basically two-thirds of a two-WAR player, Pederson’s price tag is more than reasonable for a contending team like the Giants. They will complete this two-win chimera with some combination of Darin Ruf, Wilmer Flores, and Austin Slater, depending on the rest of the lineup on any given day. Pederson will likely see most of his time at DH given that San Francisco has superior defensive players, but he’ll likely see a bunch of scattered games in the outfield. Now, it would be nice if Joc could catch too, but you can’t get everything you want.

To replace a serious Cy Young contender in Kevin Gausman, the Giants have taken a quieter approach than some other teams. Carlos Rodón looked like a Cy Young contender for most of the early months of the 2021 season, but injuries stood in his way, and he wasn’t quite as sharp after the All-Star break. Alex Cobb may have had the best season of anyone in 2021 that nobody seemed to notice, putting up a 2.92 FIP in 18 starts with the best strikeout rate of his career. But the histories of both mean you can’t just write in 180 innings for either, or possibly even combined; you need to have some reinforcements. That’s what Boyd brings to the table.

ZiPS Projection – Matthew Boyd
2022 10 9 0 4.25 27 27 150.3 141 71 25 43 170 99 1.9

Boyd won’t match that inning total, simply because ZiPS is unaware that he had surgery in the offseason. He’s expected to return a bit before midseason and will likely be in a swing role for the Giants if they’ve been lucky with health up until that point. One of Boyd’s weaknesses is the occasional grooved pitch that’s crushed a mile, but Oracle is a better home field to mitigate that issue. ZiPS projects him to have a slightly above-average ERA for a starter, so $5 million represents real value for the franchise. Think of it this way: every summer, teams will pay to acquire a league-average starter who makes $5 million the rest of the year, but this way only costs dollars rather than prospects as well.

Will either of these moves leave the Dodgers quaking in their cleats? No, but both of these are solid, quiet signings that leave the team a few wins better off. Most chess games aren’t won due to gambits or wild sacrifices, but to quiet positional play and the accumulation of tiny advantages. Kapler has two more good pieces on the game board.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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3 months ago

Winning little-by-little is nice. Would be nice to have a bonafide superstar, but I guess we’ll just be waiting for the prospects at this point.

3 months ago
Reply to  atlas

This is the strategy Cleveland is apparently embracing!

A quick look at their free agent tracker indicates an aggressive willingness to wait for the prospects.

3 months ago

I remember someone telling me that the Guardians were going to spend more this year. Well, they are–$52M instead of $51M for the final payroll last year.

I fully expect that anyone they sign will be basically on the eve of training camp. It’s gonna be like “Asdrubal Cabrera returns to platoon with Bobby Bradley at first base” and “Brian Goodwin gets a minor league deal and a non-roster invitation.”