Former Braves outfielder Joc Pederson discusses his free agency

Former Braves outfielder Joc Pederson is presented his World Series ring, admiring it proudly while showing it off to Braves fans, before the Giants played the Braves on Monday in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Former Braves outfielder Joc Pederson is presented his World Series ring, admiring it proudly while showing it off to Braves fans, before the Giants played the Braves on Monday in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Joc Pederson admitted he knew he wasn’t a priority for the Braves over the winter.

Pederson, 30, was a darling of the team’s World Series run. The Braves acquired him from the Cubs in July 2021 after Ronald Acuña’s ACL tear, and Pederson became a figurehead of the club’s resurgence. He, along with three other outfield acquisitions, helped turn a forgotten campaign into one that was enshrined in baseball history.

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Following the Braves’ championship celebration, Pederson declined his side of a mutual option that was included in the one-year contract he signed with Chicago. He, along with fellow Braves outfielders Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler, entered free agency.

Pederson shares an agency (Excel Sports Management) with former Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was the organization’s franchise player and also a free agent. Pederson knew Freeman’s situation would dominate the Braves’ winter plans.

As it turned out, he and Freeman ended up elsewhere. Pederson signed with the Giants, returning to the National League West – where he spent his first seven seasons with the Dodgers – and getting to play near his hometown of Palo Alto, Calif.

Pederson returned to Truist Park on Monday. He was asked whether he was surprised he didn’t re-sign with the Braves, who acknowledged before free agency that it would be difficult to retain Pederson, Rosario and Soler (the team re-signed Rosario; Soler signed with Miami).

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“Free agency is always crazy,” Pederson said. “I think they had bigger fish to fry with the whole Freddie stuff. I do have the same agent as Freddie, so I don’t think there was going to be any … making deals without addressing Freddie first, which is respect to Freddie. He’s accomplished so much here and is a Braves legend for life. That could’ve made things tougher in that way. Then you throw in that they condensed free agency, because of the lockout, that sped the process up and made this offseason different from any other, unpredictable. You had to move on a deal when you thought you had a good deal quickly because there wasn’t any time to wait around.”

Freeman likewise went out West, signing with the Dodgers after negotiations with the Braves fell apart. Freeman departing the Braves was a stunning storyline across baseball as most assumed he’d spend his career with the franchise. As talks with Freeman stagnated, the Braves pivoted to Atlanta native Matt Olson, whom the rebuilding Athletics traded for four prospects. The team inked Olson to an eight-year extension before his introductory news conference. Freeman signed with the Dodgers a few days later.

“Free agency is always crazy. I think they had bigger fish to fry with the whole Freddie (Freeman) stuff."

- former Braves outfielder Joc Pederson, who signed with the Giants

Pederson feels a little weird seeing Freeman in Dodger blue.

“A little bit (surprised he left),” Pederson said. “I still see him, and it just seems like he’s a Brave. But, obviously, things go on. He’s accomplished so much here. He won a World Series. He’d been here his whole career. So it’s strange to see that in baseball, but I think that’s the way baseball has gone, and they went a different route than that. I guess you could say it is what it is. I’m not Freddie. I wasn’t in the situation, so it’s hard for me to really comment on that. But hopefully he’s happy, his family is happy and the Braves as well. Hopefully the situation works out.”

The Braves will host Freeman’s Dodgers this weekend after Pederson’s Giants conclude their four-game set in Atlanta.