Braves trade for outfielder Joc Pederson

Chicago Cubs' Joc Pederson looks around Wrigley Field and celebrates his two-run double off St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Genesis Cabrera during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, June 11, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Chicago Cubs' Joc Pederson looks around Wrigley Field and celebrates his two-run double off St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Genesis Cabrera during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, June 11, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Braves aren’t selling - at least not yet. They’re buying, and they made their first purchase Thursday night.

The team announced it has acquired outfielder Joc Pederson from the Cubs. The Braves traded slugging first baseman prospect Bryce Ball for Pederson, who addresses the team’s need for outfield help. Pederson will play right field, replacing superstar Ronald Acuna, who tore his ACL last weekend and will miss the rest of the season.

“We wanted to get at least an outfielder if we could with Ronald going down,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “So clearly, that accelerated Sunday (when Acuna was confirmed with a torn ACL), and working through the All-Star break, you’re trying to get something done. There’s a lot of teams out there that are still in the hunt, still contending. And if there are things out there we can add, we’ll look to do it. I know we’ve had our challenges, but I think everyone in the division has. So this one made sense for us and we jumped on it.”

Anthopoulos said he hopes Pederson will be with the club Friday when it begins the second half hosting the Rays, but due to the All-Star break and travel schedules, he wasn’t yet certain.

The Cubs, after enduring an 11-game losing streak that pushed them far back in the National League Central, decided to sell, as multiple reports indicated last week. The Braves’ talks with the Cubs grew serious Monday and accelerated Tuesday as the draft winded down. Anthopoulos said from the beginning, the Cubs were transparent with their intention to part with players.

After Acuna’s injury, and given how the season has transpired for the injury ridden 44-45 Braves, there was thought the team could become a seller at the July 30 trade deadline. That could still become the case if they struggle, but Thursday’s move indicates they’ll first try to make a push.

The Braves trail the Mets by four games in the wide-open National League East. The trade market hasn’t yet taken shape - the next 10 days will dictate who does what, Anthopoulos acknowledged - but the Braves, as it stands now, aren’t planning to trade away veterans.

“Right now, our focus is on adding if we can,” Anthopoulos said. “Things can change at any time, that goes without saying. But our focus right now is, as banged up as we’ve been, is if we can add where it makes sense, we’ll certainly look to do it. We’re optimistic. We’re going to get more guys back from the (injured list) and that should only improve our club. But again, we have important games. Every game counts, and I think anytime we can strengthen the ballclub, we’re gonna look to do it.”

Pederson, 29, was hitting .230/.300/.418 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 73 games with the Cubs. He spent the previous seven seasons with the Dodgers, playing a role with two Los Angeles teams that eliminated the Braves from the postseason in October 2018 and 2020. Anthopoulos was familiar with Pederson after working with the Dodgers’ front office for two seasons before taking over the Braves.

“No doubt there’s a comfort level there,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s high-energy guy, great clubhouse guy. Comes in with a smile on his face every day, loves to play. And he’s someone that when 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. So he’ll give you a good at-bat as well. He’ll also draw a walk. So for us to add someone like this, with all the injuries we’ve had and so many contending clubs, we’re glad to be able to do it.”

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers' Joc Pederson celebrates a three-run home run during the first inning in Game 3 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

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Pederson will add power to a decimated Braves lineup that’s missing Acuna, Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud in the middle of its order. Pederson has always fared much better against righties than left-handers. He’s hit .236 with a .837 OPS in his career against right-handers as opposed to a .203 average with a .593 OPS against lefties. Peterson has played regularly this season, and Anthopoulos said his playing time will be decided by manager Brian Snitker.

Anthopoulos called Pederson “solid” defensively. He can play both corner outfield spots (and center if necessary), but Anthopoulos said he’s most comfortable in right field. He’d mostly played left field for the Cubs.

Ball, 23, was hitting .207 with six homers and 30 RBIs in High-A Rome. He impressed during spring training in 2020, showing legitimate power potential.

Pederson is on a one-year deal worth $7 million (his base salary is $4.5 million, meaning the Braves took on less than half that in acquiring him). Pederson has a mutual option worth $10 million for next season, which the Braves assumed in the deal. It includes a $2.5 million buyout. While mutual options are rarely accepted by both parties, Anthopoulos indicated he’s open to a long-term partnership with Pederson.

“He’s a young man that’s got tremendous upside,” Anthopoulos said. “And anytime you get someone in your clubhouse, and you get to know him a little more - and I know him well - but he gets to know Atlanta and the players in our clubhouse, in the organization. I think that we are open for the relationship to continue beyond this year.”