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We need to talk about the Connor Joe trade

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, December 22nd, 2022

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When the Colorado Rockies announced on Sunday that they had traded utilityman Connor Joe to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for prospect pitcher Nick Garcia, the fan reaction was generally... not great. Joe had become a fan favorite over his two years in a Rockies uniform for his incredible story as a cancer survivor and his infectious positive outlook. He even earned himself a spot as a regular starter after a strong 2021 campaign. Naturally, fans were less than pleased to hear the Rockies had swapped their beloved CoJo for a prospect pitcher who hasn’t yet played above High-A.

As stated on our twitter earlier this week, we’re huge Connor Joe fans here at Purple Row. We were even shilling a t-shirt of him. Connor Joe is an excellent human and well loved by both us and the fandom at large. However, this doesn’t mean the Rockies made the wrong move.

Back in November I discussed how Rockies are starting to embrace the idea of making difficult decisions. Struggling catcher Dom Nuñez and former top prospect OF Ryan Vilade were both placed on and claimed via waivers. Vilade went to the Pittsburgh Pirates while Nuñez went to the San Francisco Giants (but was later released). Sam Hilliard was traded to the Atlanta Braves, Garrett Hampson was non-tendered at the deadline and released, and Wynton Bernard was outrighted off the 40-man roster.

Connor Joe represents another difficult decision the Rockies front office had to make. It was the right move to make, and in a world where the Rockies front office doesn’t exactly have a sterling track record when it comes to making decisions this shouldn’t be overlooked.

Joe really didn’t have a place to play on the Rockies roster in 2023. The roster is packed with right handed outfielders (and first basemen), many of whom are much younger than Joe and need to get playing time and development. Joe on the roster has the potential to prevent players like Sean Bouchard—who had an excellent debut—from getting playing time they absolutely earned. At first base you can’t play Joe when you have CJ Cron on the final year of his contract and Michael Toglia ready for consistent playing time. Meanwhile the Rockies have Brenton Doyle, Grant Lavigne, Nolan Jones, and even Zac Veen waiting in the wings. It works out better for everyone that Joe moves to a team where he can still get regular at-bats and the Rockies can better evaluate their young talent.

Even if Joe did have a consistent spot on this lineup in 2023, you can’t overlook that he struggled immensely in the second half last season. Joe was fairly solid in the first half of the season, but after the All-Star break his batting took a concerning nosedive. From July 22nd through the end of the season, Joe slashed just .139/.209/.266 with only two home runs and four doubles. He also struck out over 25% of the time during that stretch.

Despite these difficulties, the Rockies were able to get some value from Joe through a trade. While fans may be mad that the Rockies only got a “Single-A pitcher,” Nick Garcia will likely start with Double-A Hartford in 2023 to bolster a pitching staff sorely lacking in depth. Most of the Rockies’ high end prospects—especially pitching—are still in the lower levels. Pitching was a major weakness of both the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats and the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes in 2022. It helps that despite being a “Single-A pitcher,” Nick Garcia is a solid pitching prospect. As recently as 2021 Garcia was considered a top 30 prospect in the Pirates organization.

For what ever it may be worth, I think Nick Garcia is a good return for Connor Joe. Tall and strong, Garcia converted from third base and outfield to pitching in his sophomore year of college at Chapman University. He’s got a good fastball sitting 92-96 MPH that he can locate consistently, and he’s not afraid to challenge batters. His best breaking pitch is a 55 grade slider that generates whiffs against batters on both sides, and he’s also got a sharp cutter he utilizes against lefties. Garcia also has a developing changeup and curveball. He projects as either a middle-to-back of rotation starter or a strong middle reliever.

The Rockies took a position of surplus in the outfielder Connor Joe and used it to bolster a position of need in minor league pitching. While they don’t have to like the move, I want Rockies fans to understand that the Rockies genuinely made the smart decision here. You don’t have to like a move—I’m personally incredibly sad to lose Connor Joe—to recognize it was the right one. I wish Connor Joe the best of luck in Pittsburgh and thank him for his time in LoDo, and I also hope the Rockies can continue to make necessary moves like this one.

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Colorado native gets homecoming with Rockies |

From the newsletter of Thomas Harding, Rockies beat writer for, comes an exploration of Colorado native and Faith Christian product Pierce Johnson’s homecoming. Johnson signed with his hometown Rockies last week and was minor league teammates with several current members of the Rockies roster.

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