This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster.
Depending upon who’s drawing it up, Connor Joe could currently sit atop the Pittsburgh Pirates’ depth chart at first base.
Joe started at first base in 24 of the final 47 games of the 2023 season after Aug. 1 following the trades of Carlos Santana and Ji-Man Choi. If spring training were to start today, Joe and fellow right-handed hitter Jared Triolo would likely be competing for the starting job.
However, spring training doesn’t start until mid-February. General manager Ben Cherington has made it clear that the Pirates are looking for first base help this winter.
Joe is eligible for salary arbitration and is projected to make $2 million next season. Even if Joe ends up as a bench player or the short side of a platoon at first base or right field, the 31-year-old’s salary should still be low enough for the low-budget Pirates to carry.
Joe provides a certain level of versatility, which he showed last season after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies in an offseason trade. He started 39 games in right field, 38 at first base and 23 in left field.
Offensively, Joe had a solid season by hitting .247/.339/.421 with 11 home runs in 133 games. His 31 doubles tied for the team lead with Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds.
The Pirates were hoping to add more patient hitters to their lineup last winter and Joe proved to be helpful in that regard. He finished in the 93rd percentile among major league hitters with a 19.6% chase rate and in the 77th percentile with a 10.6% walk rate.
It was a roundabout homecoming for Joe, who was the Pirates’ supplemental first-round draft pick in 2014. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves three years later for Sean Rodriguez. Joe made his major-league debut in 2019 with the San Francisco Giants as a Rule 5 Draft pick and played in the big leagues with the Rockies from 2021-22.
Joe had some big moments in 2023, including tying a career-high in hits by going 4 for 5 with three doubles against the Chicago White Sox on April 7 in the home opener at PNC Park. He also had a four-hit game on Aug. 27 versus the Philadelphia Phillies.
Joe became just the eighth Pirates player to have at least three doubles and four runs scored in a game when he reached those totals on Aug. 21 in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The home opener was part of a hot start for Joe, who was hitting .288/.387/.575 at the end of April. He also finished strong with a .424/.487/.636 slash line in his last nine games. However, between those stretches, Joe batted .217/.310/.357 in 100 games from May 2-Sept. 17.
Joe is a career .247/.343/.400 with 26 home runs in 315 games over four major-league seasons.