As Blue Jays explore market for bats, they have serious interest in Pederson

TORONTO – There was one player for whom the Blue Jays were willing to put their entire off-season on hold, but in the weeks since Shohei Ohtani signed with the Dodgers it’s become clear the Toronto front office isn’t inclined to be similarly patient with other top free agents.

So while the Blue Jays have maintained interest in Cody Bellinger this off-season, recent deals with Kevin Kiermaier and Isiah Kiner-Falefa made it abundantly clear they’re not waiting on a decision from the 28-year-old. It’s now hard to see Bellinger landing with the Blue Jays, who have turned their attention to one of his former teammates.

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According to industry sources, Joc Pederson is drawing serious interest from the Blue Jays, whose greatest need is offence at this point in the off-season. While interest has picked up in recent days, other win-now teams are believed to be competing with the Blue Jays in the outfield/DH market, including the Diamondbacks, the Angels and the Giants. The Cubs may be another suitor for Pederson, depending on where their pursuit of Bellinger leads.

A left-handed hitter, Pederson spent the 2023 season with the Giants, batting .235/.348/.416 with 15 home runs in 425 plate appearances. The 31-year-old started 20 games in left field and three more in right, but the bulk of his playing time came as the Giants’ designated hitter. With Brandon Belt now a free agent, that’s a vacant position for the Blue Jays. 

While Pederson’s defensive contributions were limited last year, he offers some clear strengths as a hitter. With a lifetime .834 OPS against right-handed pitching, he’s easily leveraged depending on matchups. Plus, he’s a veteran of 79 post-season games, with 12 home runs and an .814 OPS in the playoffs, most recently with the 2021 Atlanta team that won it all.

Of course, the Blue Jays know better than most that serious interest in a player doesn’t equate to a deal. Another team could step up and sign Pederson, or the Blue Jays could decide to head in a different direction. With many outfield/DH types available, the Blue Jays are unlikely to be frozen out here, and it’s an area they’ve surveyed extensively.

So far this off-season, the Toronto front office has shown some interest in a wide range of DH candidates, including Pederson, Rhys Hoskins, J.D. Martinez, Joey Votto, Justin Turner and others. And since the Blue Jays would benefit from multiple hitters, a deal with Pederson wouldn’t necessarily rule out adding a second bat-first player, like Turner, for instance.

As things stand now, the Toronto bench would still have room for Ernie Clement and Spencer Horwitz, and while both had their moments late in 2023, the Blue Jays would benefit from adding established players who push the likes of Clement and Horowitz off the big-league depth chart. Before landing Kiner-Falefa, they had some interest in Gio Urshela and Amed Rosario, but it’s not clear whether that interest remains.

One way or another, though, it continues to seem more likely that the Blue Jays add a number of players on more modest deals instead of going ‘all-in’ for a single player. And for the time being, Pederson’s a name worth watching.