Giants: Potential landing spots for free agent Kevin Pillar
By Jeff Young
Last week, the San Francisco Giants decided not to tender a contract to outfielder Kevin Pillar for the 2020 season.
Instead of paying Kevin Pillar a projected $9.7 million in his final year of arbitration, the San Francisco Giants decided to part ways with the outfielder, thereby making him a free agent.
The decision came as something of a surprise after he put together a productive 2019 season, and with no clear replacement on the roster, but he’s now free to sign with any team.
It would appear there is no shortage of interest in the veteran center fielder’s services:
On the surface, this was a difficult decision to understand. The right-handed hitter eclipsed the 20-homer plateau, which was the first time a Giants hitter had achieved this mark since Brandon Crawford did it way back in 2015.
Of course, Evan Longoria and Mike Yastrzemski later joined Pillar in the 20-home run club among Giants hitters in 2019.
In addition to the home run total, the long-time Blue Jay recorded a .719 OPS, 88 RBI, and 83 runs scored in 645 plate appearances. On the surface, he was productive in a number of offensive categories.
However, a dig beneath the surface revealed some troubling trends. He posted a middling .287 on-base percentage, which was 15 basis points below the .302 mark set by the team in 2019. That team mark was the second worst figure in the National League behind only the Miami Marlins (.298 OBP).
Similarly, Pillar generated a 85 wRC+, which was the 12th worst figure among qualified hitters last season. This number indicates that his offensive output was 15 percent below league average.
With the glove, Pillar passed the eye test as he made plenty of fantastic plays like this one:
However, the defensive metrics were not as encouraged by his work. In 2019, he recorded -3 DRS and a -0.3 UZR, so he was a tad below average according to the metrics.
Lastly, Pillar was worth 1.0 WAR as he split time with the Giants and Blue Jays. That, along with the other trends, influenced the Giants decision to part ways.
This may prove to be an advantageous chain of events for Pillar. The free-agent market is extremely thin on quality center fielders, and Pillar is already arguably the best option available.
There are plenty of interested suitors, and it makes sense. If a team wants to improve its center field production, and does not have the prospect capital to swing a trade, then targeting a player like Pillar would be prudent.
On paper, the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and Colorado Rockies look like potential fits for Pillar’s services among the interested teams. Let’s take a closer look at each situation.