The Braves and Cubs completed what can be considered the first deadline trade this season. Atlanta acquired outfielder Joc Pederson from Chicago for minor league first baseman Bryce Ball.
The teams announced the swap Thursday night.
Pederson is going from a club staring at a midseason teardown to a club chasing a division title. Ball becomes a part of the Cubs’ long-term plans.
Did the teams make a good deal? SN grades the swap:
Joc Pederson trade grades
Atlanta needed to fill a hole in the outfield after losing right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. to a season-ending ACL tear two days before the All-Star break. Pederson, 29, will at least offer help against right-handed pitching. He has a career .837 OPS against right-handers to just .593 against left-handers. All 11 of his home runs this season have been hit against right-handers.
Pederson can play all three outfield positions, but he has spent almost all of the past two seasons in left field. He has been well below average at the position this year, however, with minus-4 defensive runs saved, per Fangraphs. Atlanta started Orlando Arcia, a converted shortstop, in left in six of its last seven games before the break. Abraham Almonte has received the bulk of the starts at the position while Marcell Ozuna (broken fingers) has been sidelined.
Atlanta did not get a true rental in Pederson, who has a $10 million mutual option ($2.5 million buyout) for 2022. The Braves reportedly are taking on all of his remaining salary this season, about $3 million.
One question about this deal: Did the Braves inquire about Kris Bryant, who is expected to also leave Chicago before the July 30 deadline and would be a true rental? Outfield is where he’d have to play in Atlanta with Austin Riley flourishing as the full-time third baseman.
Chicago is selling after a June-July swoon damaged its playoff chances. It enters the post-break portion of the season eight games out of first place in the National League Central and 7 1/2 games out of the second wild-card berth.
Pederson is the first of what is expected to be multiple moves. The question now is: How active will general manager Jed Hoyer be in the next two weeks? He needs to decide whether to move such players as Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Craig Kimbrel.
Hoyer’s first deal of the summer netted him a slugging infield prospect. MLB Pipeline ranked the 23-year-old Ball 12th among the Braves’ top 30 prospects.
Ball displayed high-level power (17 home runs in 62 games) two years ago after being drafted by the Braves in the 24th round out of Dallas Baptist University. He also slashed .329/.395/.628.
He has been much worse in 2021: a .207/.354/.396 slash line and six home runs in 53 games for high Single-A Rome. His strikeout rate is high (27.8 percent), but he has shown a decent eye with 40 walks.
The Cubs can let Ball work out his hitting issues over the next couple seasons in the minors.