The time between the All-Star Game and the July trade deadline figured to be a busy one for the Cubs. Jed Hoyer just kicked things off by trading Joc Pederson to the Braves for first base prospect Bryce Ball. Pederson signed with the Cubs as a free agent on January 29 after spending the first seven years of his career with the Dodgers. Chicago was the 29-year-old outfielder’s first choice because Hoyer and manager David Ross promised him playing time against lefties and everyday at-bats.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 16, 2021
The trade represents the first of many anticipated moves by Chicago’s first-year president of baseball operations. The Cubs seemed to be in buy mode entering June, but 12 losses in 13 games, which included an 11-game losing streak, forced Hoyer to reverse course. It’s been rumored that Craig Kimbrel is also available, and the Cubs have several players on one-year contracts or in the final years of their deals, including Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez.
Ball stands 6′ 6″ and bats from the left side. At the time of the trade, he was listed by MLB Pipeline as Atlanta’s No. 12 prospect. He’s 23, was an over-slot 24th round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2019, and slashed .325/.395/.628 with 17 home runs in his first year of pro ball. The power continued to show while he worked with the Braves at their alternate site last season. This season he’s struggled quite a bit at the Braves’ High-A affiliate in Rome, batting .207 with six home runs and 30 RBI in 169 at-bats. Ball has struck out 59 times this year, though he’s drawn 40 walks. He’s likely headed to South Bend.
In Pederson, the Braves get a power-hitting outfielder who can replace phenom Ronald Acuna Jr., who suffered a season-ending ACL injury just before the All-Star break. The left fielder was hitting .230 with 11 home runs going into the All-Star break but since May 3 he’s batted .254 with a .773 OPS. He was one of the stars for the Dodgers in last year’s World Series, going 13-for-34 (.382) with two home runs. The Cubs were paying him $4.5 million this season and had a mutual option with the outfielder worth $10 million for 2022.
Jake Marisnick will probably replace Pederson in the starting lineup, taking over in center field with Bryant getting the bulk of the starts in left, though the Cubs have many lineup options to fill that hole.