MESA, Ariz. — Outfielder Joc Pederson wants to shed some of the labels attached to him after seven seasons with the Dodgers.
There weren’t many teams that would allow him to do that going into free agency this offseason, but after looking over some rosters late one night, the Cubs looked like a hand-in-glove fit.
After the departure of outfielder Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs had an opening in left field. And after an increase in their budget, they signed Pederson to a one-year, $7 million deal to fill it.
Pederson, 28, had other multiyear deals on the table, but the Cubs were the only team that would give him a chance to be an every-day player. Now that he has that opportunity, the rest will be up to him.
‘‘I know what type of player I am, and just getting opportunities is going to be good for me,’’ Pederson said. ‘‘I guess you could say I’ve got to prove some stuff to them, but I’m not out to prove it for anybody but myself.
‘‘I know what I can do, and I’m not gonna add pressure like, ‘I gotta do this for you or them.’ It’s like, ‘No, I know what type of player I am,’ and to get the opportunities . . . it’s gonna be a fun year in Chicago.’’
The left-handed-hitting Pederson was used primarily as a platoon player during his time with the Dodgers, and it’s hard to argue with the logic of using him that way. He has an .849 career OPS against right-handers and a .576 career OPS against left-handers.
‘‘We’re gonna try to get him as many at-bats as we can against left-handed pitching, and he wants that,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘He’s hungry for that. Then [we’ll] just try to eyeball it. He’s gonna have to put up the numbers, but [we’ll] also watch the at-bats. Try to identify from my seat, in our seat as a group, what matchup may be tough left-on-left, and maybe that’s the day he gets days off or comes off the bench.
‘‘But, for the most part, I want to be able to give him the freedom to go out there and be himself. And, you know, we’ll have some moments where we’ll find out, then we’ll have conversations if it was not working out. But I have a ton of belief in Joc and where he’s at right now, so we’ll see.’’
There’s a dramatic difference in the number of plate appearances Pederson has had against right-handers (2,132) and left-handers (385) in his career, but the sample size isn’t small in either regard after seven seasons. The Cubs’ goal this spring has been getting Pederson ample reps in live batting practice and in the cage to make the transition easier.
‘‘I think you’re looking at what his preparation is like to get those opportunities,’’ hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said. ‘‘Because everybody can say, ‘I’m not getting an opportunity here,’ or, ‘I’ve been platooning.’ But the work that he’s been putting in now, you see that he wants it. He wants to try and seize that opportunity. It’s not just that he’s working hard, but he’s really being proactive in his cage work and what he wants to do off of lefties, off of righties.’’
If Pederson struggles against lefties, the Cubs have right-handed-hitting options, including Jake Marisnick and Cameron Maybin. After talking with Ross this offseason, Pederson knows he’ll have to perform to keep those opportunities coming.
‘‘[Ross] was basically saying, ‘Hey, I’m gonna pencil you in there every day, and if we come to July and you’re not cutting it and you’re hitting .150 against lefties, we’re still here to win ballgames,’ ’’ Pederson said. ‘‘And I said, ‘Absolutely.’
‘‘I’m not looking for anything guaranteed. I just wanted to have a real opportunity. . . . I trusted him, and I think he’s trusting me.’’