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Giants give Joc Pederson the qualifying offer

Well that was unexpected.

Joc Pederson smiling while holding his helmet Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It’s fairly safe to say that the San Francisco Giants will make quite a few surprising moves this offseason. And their first one has officially been made.

On Thursday, the Giants announced that they had extended the qualifying offer to left-handed outfielder Joc Pederson.

It’s a somewhat surprising move, because Pederson, despite his All-Star campaign in 2022, wasn’t projected to get the kind of money that the $19.65 million qualifying offer will pay him. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel projected Pederson to receive $24 million over two years, while Fangraphs’ community projections pegged him at two years and $20 million ... essentially the qualifying offer, but spread out over two years instead of one.

So why did the Giants choose to go this route? There are a lot of potential reasons, though I’m not sure which of them are at play here. Let’s look at the options.

The Giants are really high on him

Sometimes the reason is staring you in the face. Pederson may have slowed down after his ballistic start, but he was still the Giants best hitter — comfortably — by wRC+ last year, with a mark of 144.

That number got a boost by the fact that the Giants flatly refused to play him against lefties — just 57 of his 433 plate appearances a year ago came against southpaws (he hit .245/.333/.408, so maybe he’ll get a little more run) — but any way you paint it, he’s one of the team’s best hitters. Having an All-Star slugger to plug into the lineup even just two-thirds of the time, is a good thing.

It’s very possible that the Giants simply view Pederson as a guy who’s worth $16 million or so, in which case the qualifying offer becomes a pretty easy choice.

The rest of the league is high on him

I very much expect Pederson to accept the qualifying offer, because of those aforementioned contract predictions. If those projections were made knowing that the team who signed him would have to give up a draft pick, as they would now have to, then the projections would probably having him making less than the qualifying offer over two years.

But projections always get a few players wrong. It could be that Pederson’s market is more robust than we thought — lefty sluggers don’t exactly grow on trees — and that the Giants expect him to reject the qualifying offer and sign elsewhere. If that’s the case, collect the compensatory pick and waltz into the 2023 draft.

They really are ready to spend

This is probably the least likely reason, but it’s the one I hope is true. Farhan Zaidi said earlier this week that they don’t have financial restraints when chasing good players. Perhaps this is a sign of it. Perhaps this is the Giants saying, “yeah, we probably could re-sign Joc for $12 million, but we can definitely sign him for $20 million, so let’s do that.”

If that’s the case, it bodes well for Giants fans. It means the checkbooks are open. It means we get to prepare for competitive offers to Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa and Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodón.

Then again, if that’s not the case, the semi-cheap Giants just overpaid for a platoon outfielder which ... yikes.

Whatever the reasons, Pederson has been given the QO, and the ball is now in his court. Like Brandon Belt last year (whose time with the Giants may be over after this move), I expect Pederson to accept it.