Kevin Pillar is a Perfect Fit for the Giants
By Joel Reuter
It’s not often you see a major trade before the MLB season is even a week old.
With a clear need for outfield help and a motivated trade partner in the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays, the San Francisco Giants have acquired center fielder Kevin Pillar, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Heading the other way in the trade is reliever Derek Law, utility man Alen Hanson and prospect Juan De Paula. Outfielder Michael Reed has been designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
For the Giants, it’s a small price to pay for a potentially impactful upgrade.
Law showed some late-inning promise as a rookie in 2016, posting a 2.13 ERA and 0.96 WHIP with 14 holds in 61 games. The 28-year-old has struggled to a 5.68 ERA in 48 games over the past two seasons, though, and he was outrighted off the 40-man roster in February.
Hanson, a former top prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, proved useful in a utility role last year with a 90 OPS+ and 30 extra-base hits in 310 plate appearances while playing five different positions and posting 0.5 WAR. He failed to make the Opening Day roster, though, and he had been designated for assignment on March 28.
De Paula, 21, will be the key to this trade for the Blue Jays. The right-hander ranked as the No. 19 prospect in the San Francisco system prior to the trade, according to MLB.com.
“He has a ceiling as a No. 4 starter if he makes the necessary improvements and also could develop into a fastball-heavy reliever,” reads his prospect profile.
In return, the Giants get a standout defensive center fielder to patrol spacious AT&T Park.
The 30-year-old Pillar has racked up 50 Defensive Runs Saved in five seasons with the Blue Jays, and while his defensive metrics took a step backward in 2018, his track record says this is a good pickup that fills an obvious need.
According to FanGraphs, the Giants ranked 28th overall center field defense in 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, shifting incumbent Steven Duggar to one of the corner spots should make the entire outfield defense better.
Offensively, Pillar is roughly league-average with a 93 OPS+ with 40 doubles, 15 home runs and 14 steals last season.
Despite that modest production, he was still good a 2.5 WAR player, which would have trailed only Buster Posey (2.9) and Brandon Belt (2.7) on last year’s roster.
Want your voice heard? Join the Around The Foghorn team!
All things considered, this looks like a great early move for the Giants. The price was right, there was a clear need, and adding a plus defender in center field could have a positive impact on the pitching staff.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.