The San Francisco Giants have made a minor personnel move, acquiring Rule 5 utility man Connor Joe from the Cincinnati Reds for right-handed pitcher Jordan Johnson and cash considerations. To make room on the 40-man roster, another Rule 5 pick, Drew Ferguson, has been designated for assignment.
Because Joe was selected by the Reds in the Rule 5 Draft, the Giants must keep him on the 25-man roster all season, or offer him back to the Dodgers. Ferguson, who was selected in the Rule 5 Draft from the Houston Astros, has been waived, meaning another team can claim him and inherit his Rule 5 provisions. If not, he would be returned to the Houston Astros’ minor league system.
It’s the second move in as many days for the Giants, who are looking to bolster a lackluster competition for the third and fourth outfield spots, and add another right-handed bat.
Last season, Joe — who was in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor league system when Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was the Dodgers’ GM — hit 17 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A, with a .408 on-base percentage. This spring, Joe is hitting .275 in 21 games, with four doubles and a home run.
So far this spring, candidates for the outfield besides Steven Duggar (.368) and Gerardo Parra (.270) — who seem to be locks — have been unimpressive. Right fielder Mac Williamson has hit .245 in 18 games and 49 at-bats; Chris Shaw, sent to minor league camp just over a week ago, hit .217 (although it’s likely Shaw will be back during the season); and Austin Slater has hit just .185 in 12 games (27 at-bats). Newcomer Cameron Maybin has been a let-down, as well, as his re-engineered swing has produced just a .163 spring training batting average.
Zaidi has said he wanted to add a right-handed bat into the outfield mix, and after adding left-handed swinging Matt Joyce on Wednesday, he added Joe, a right-handed hitter who plays first, third and the outfield. That role was thought to be switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval’s.
Immensely popular among the fans, Sandoval is certainly a popular and energetic presence in the clubhouse, where he helped counsel some of the younger Latin players and the raft of rookies San Francisco debuted last season. On the field, though, Sandoval has been a replaceable piece since he returned to the Giants, hitting .238 since he returned from the Boston Red Sox.
Joe, 26, has appeared in a team-leading 21 games with the Reds this spring, batting .275 (11-for-40) with four doubles, a homer and three RBI. He owns a career batting average of .264 with 77 doubles, 10 triples, 28 home runs and 161 RBI in 390 minor league contests.
Johnson, 25, was drafted by San Francisco in the 23rd round of the 2014 Draft. In five minor league seasons he posted a record of 21-33 with a 4.37 ERA in 86 games (77 starts).
In 20 games this spring, Ferguson, a center fielder by trade, went just 3-for-27 (.111) with no extra-base hits. He was one of five outfielders on the 40-man roster, including Shaw, Duggar, Slater and Williamson.