Entering an offseason in which they needed to trade an outfielder or two, the Los Angeles Dodgers first added to their surplus. They traded for Kyle Jensen, though it was a move that figured to impact their their Minor League teams and followed it by acquiring Chris Heisey from the Cincinnati Reds.
Since that point, Jensen was designated for assignment Friday so that the Dodgers could add Jimmy Rollins to the 40-man roster and Matt Kemp was traded to the San Diego Padres. The Kemp trade not only removed a significant contract from the Dodgers’ payroll but also figured to clear the path for Joc Pederson to take over in center field.
However, on a conference call following Howie Kendrick’s introductory press conference, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman revealed Pederson being handed the reins isn’t a guarantee.
“I don’t know yet,” Friedman said. “I think we’ll take some time in Spring Training and assess that. Get a feel for him in camp and how he’s handling things. I’m sure it’ll be an ongoing discussion from now through the end of March.”
Last season was Pederson’s first in Triple-A and it was a record year as he became the first Pacific Coast League player in 80 years to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. His success earned him a September callup to the Dodgers, where he appeared in 18 games.
If Pederson isn’t the player that takes over in center field, Friedman said the Dodgers could turn to any number of players including Heisey, Andre Ethier, Kike Hernandez, or Yasiel Puig. The general consensus within the organization is Pederson the team’s best option in center field, and manager Don Mattingly recently compared him to Colorado Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez.
Should Pederson take over center field responsibilities, it would give the Dodgers their best defensive full-time option since the 2011 version of Kemp, but they would also need to withstand the growing pains that are sure to come at the plate given Pederson’s history of striking out often.
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