As the Pittsburgh Pirates navigate their off-season strategies, Connor Joe emerges as a potential key figure in their 2024 lineup. Following the mid-season trades of Carlos Santana and Ji-Man Choi, Joe increasingly took the helm at first base, starting in 24 of the final 47 games post-August 1 in the 2023 season.
With spring training looming in mid-February, Joe and Jared Triolo appear to be a frontrunner for the starting first baseman role. However, Pirates' General Manager Ben Cherington hasn't ruled out seeking additional first-base talent this winter, leaving the position's ultimate fate still in flux.
Despite this uncertainty, Joe's projected $2 million salary for the next season, as he enters salary arbitration, makes him a financially viable option for the budget-conscious Pirates, whether as a starter or a valuable bench player.
Acquired from the Colorado Rockies in an offseason trade, Joe's versatility was on full display last season. He confidently covered right field (39 games), first base (38 games), and left field (23 games), showcasing his adaptability.
At the plate, Joe contributed significantly, batting .247/.339/.421 with 11 home runs across 133 games. His 31 doubles, shared as a team-high with Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds, underscored his offensive prowess. Awe-inspiring was Joe's disciplined approach at the plate.
He boasted a chase rate in the 93rd percentile among major leaguers at 19.6% and a walk rate in the 77th percentile at 10.6%. These stats highlight the Pirates' successful strategy of adding patient hitters to their lineup.
Joe's Homecoming Journey
Joe's journey with the Pirates feels somewhat like a homecoming. Drafted as a supplemental first-round pick by the Pirates in 2014, his career path saw him traded to the Atlanta Braves, debut with the San Francisco Giants in 2019, and then play for the Rockies before coming full circle back to Pittsburgh.
The 2023 season had its highlights for Joe, including a standout performance on April 7 against the Chicago White Sox, where he tied his career-high in hits. He was instrumental in the Pirates' game against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 21, joining an elite group of Pirates players with at least three doubles and four runs scored in a single game.
Despite some mid-season batting challenges, Joe's overall performance was a strong finish with a .424/.487/.636 slash line in his last nine games solidifies his role as a valuable asset for the Pirates. His career stats, .247/.343/.400 with 26 home runs over four seasons, point to a player with much to offer in Pittsburgh's quest for a competitive edge in the upcoming season.