Three underrated extension candidates for the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been fairly proactive in securing their young core for the long haul, but they have some less ovbious players they should still pursue deals with.
Aug 20, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Ryan Borucki (43)
Aug 20, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Ryan Borucki (43) / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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Connor Joe

Connor Joe has had a winding road to and from Pittsburgh. Originally a first-round competitive balance pick by the Pirates in 2014, the Pirates traded Joe to the Atlanta Braves in 2017 for Sean Rodriguez. Joe never appeared in the Majors for Atlanta, as he was then shipped to the LA Dodgers for international bonus money. The next off-season, he was selected by the Cincinnati Reds out of the Rule 5 draft and traded to the San Francisco Giants, where he appeared in eight MLB games, but later was returned to the Dodgers. The Colorado Rockies then signed him, where he spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons before being shipped back to Pittsburgh for minor leaguer Nick Garcia.

Joe's first season back in black and gold was solid, as he hit .247/.339/.421 with a .332 wOBA and 107 wRC+ through 472 plate appearances. The first baseman/outfielder hit for about league-average pop with a .174 isolated slugging percentage and 11 home runs. Joe drew walks quite frequently, with a 10.6% walk rate. His 23.3% strikeout rate was only slightly worse than the league average, which overall left him as an above-average hitter in 2023. He had some ups and downs throughout the season but showed some improvements in the second half of the campaign.

Joe split his time between the corner outfield and first base. Between the two, he spent more time in left/right field, where he logged 543.1 innings. He was not bad defensively in the grass, with -3 defensive runs saved, but +1 out above average and a 90.4 MPH outfield throw velocity, which was in the top 84th percentile of players. His first base defense also was respectable, with -2 DRS, but +1 OAA, and +5.5 UZR/150 in 343.2 innings.

Joe has more control remaining than Borucki, a lot more. He doesn't become a free agent until after the 2027 season, which means he has four full years of control remaining. But an extension now could save some money in arbitration later. Plus, the Pirates might be able to buy out a year or two of free agency. But Joe is already 31 and will be 32 by the end of the season, so he's not a young gun. Still, having Joe under contract and not worrying about arbitration, as well as potentially buying a year or two of his free agency, would be a smart move on the Pirates' end.