The SF Giants took a chance on a Rule 5 pick in Connor Joe as the team's Opening Day outfielder in 2019 but that was an experiment that was short-lived. Joe re-emerged with the Colorado Rockies in 2021 and strung together a very nice season in his first extended look against major-league pitching.
Is this Colorado Rockies outfielder the one that got away from the SF Giants?
Joe was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2014 draft out of the University of San Diego. He made his way to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 but he was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft in 2019 for the Cincinnati Reds to select.
He came over to the Giants in a minor trade with the Reds at the end of spring training that year in exchange for pitching prospect Jordan Johnson. When he arrived in San Francisco, he was still a Rule 5 pick, so the Giants needed to keep him on the active roster or return him to the Dodgers.
At the time of the trade, the Giants outfield situation was very much an unknown. Joe started in left field along with Michael Reed (right field) and Steven Duggar (center field) on Opening Day in 2019. Like Joe, Reed was acquired a couple of days before Opening Day.
Obviously, the experiment ended quickly as Joe only recorded one hit and one walk in 15 at-bats with the Giants. He was returned to the Dodgers after just eight games with San Francisco.
He remained with the Dodgers until 2020 but opted out of that season as he was diagnosed with cancer. The good news is that he was declared cancer three after just three months after beginning treatment.
Joe became a free agent after the 2020 season and quickly signed a minor-league pact with the Colorado Rockies. Given the state of the Rockies' roster, this was a good chance for a second opportunity with Joe.
The right-handed bat was promoted to the major league roster in May and never looked back. In 211 plate appearances, the 29-year-old outfielder slashed .285/.379/.469 (117 OPS+) with eight home runs, 35 RBI, and 23 runs scored while being worth 1.6 WAR. This includes a 12.3 percent walk rate against a 19.4 percent strikeout rate.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler likes to leverage platoon matchups and Joe posted a .941 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2021. Joe brings a platoon advantage and a patient approach to the table, which are two qualities that the front office values.
Currently, the Giants have Darin Ruf, Austin Slater, and Mauricio Dubón penciled in as the primary right-handed-hitting outfielders. That said, the front office surveyed the outfield market for another right-handed bat before the CBA expired.
Keeping Joe on the active roster would have paid off down the road but retaining a Rule 5 pick can be tricky. It would have given them a little more stability in an outfield contingent that has question marks outside of Ruf and Slater. Nevertheless, it is a moot point now, but it feels like Joe is one player that got away.