At 41-50, the Pittsburgh Pirates sit in fourth place in a weak NL Central. They will likely be sellers at the trade deadline. With the SF Giants in town, the two teams could connect on a trade to bring Connor Joe back to San Francisco.
Could the SF Giants connect for a reunion in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates?
I will be the first to admit that this is a bit of an oblong fit, but bear with me for a few minutes. By the way, I just wanted to find a way to sneak oblong into an article.
Many people remember Joe's brief tenure with the Giants in 2019. The right-handed bat was a Rule 5 pick by the Cincinnati Reds in December of 2018.
Right before the start of the 2019 campaign, the Giants swung a trade to acquire Joe. It was a bizarre period as Joe became the Opening Day left fielder for the Giants that season. He struggled to find his footing with the Giants as he recorded just one hit in 15 at-bats with 5 strikeouts.
For some reason, I remember that hit well. It was a bloop single to left field in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. That same summer, a teammate of mine recorded his first hit with our summer baseball team. It happened to be a bloop single to right field to which another teammate yelled, "Nice hit, Connor Joe!" True story.
Anyways, the Giants eventually sent Joe back to the Los Angeles Dodgers, which was his original team. It took a couple of seasons for him to re-emerge in the majors. During that time, the 30-year-old battled and survived a bout with cancer.
He joined the Colorado Rockies beginning in 2021 and put together a couple of nice seasons with them before being shipped to the Pirates in exchange for pitching prospect Nick Garcia, who is not currently listed as one of the organization's top 30 prospects.
Joe is off to a nice start in 2023, slashing, .239/.331/.419 (105 wRC+) with six home runs, 24 RBI, and 36 runs in 266 plate appearances. This includes a 10.2 percent walk rate against a 28.2 percent strikeout rate. He is a grinder at the plate, and it feels like whenever the Giants face him, he sees five or six pitches every at-bat.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler likes to leverage platoon matchups, and this is where the four-year veteran could come into play. The righty bat is solid against lefties, recording a .265/.358/.443 (113 wRC+) with an 11.6 percent walk rate throughout his career.
The Giants were hoping that Mitch Haniger would help boost the team's production against left-handed pitching. However, the power-hitting outfielder is recovering from a forearm fracture and could return before the end of the season.
Joe would not be able to replicate Haniger's production at the plate, but he would be able to add length to the lineup against lefties. I realize that Haniger has struggled for much of 2023, so I am referring more to his track record.
In a sense, he could give the Giants another solid right-handed bat in the same way that Austin Slater impacts the lineup. Plus, their 94 wRC+ against lefties in 2023 is the seventh-worst mark in baseball, so that is an area that they will need to address at some point.
When the Giants faced off against the Pirates on Friday night, they tabbed Joc Pederson as the DH with veteran southpaw Rich Hill on the mound. While Pederson is excellent against right-handed pitching, it is not a favorable matchup against lefties for a team that tries to create as many favorable matchups as possible.
Joe has experience at first base and left field with the latter position being of importance to the Giants as they look for a righty bat to balance out the left-handed-hitting Blake Sabol in left field. It is an imperfect fit, but Joe's bat-first skill set is one that typically appeals to this front office. Plus, the cost would seemingly be marginal if last winter's trade of him to Pittsburgh is any indication.