The Boston Red Sox have officially signed outfielder Kevin Pillar. The San Francisco Giants should have outbid them to shore up center field.
It was a fraction of what he was projected to earn in arbitration before the Giants decided to non-tender him, and the San Francisco front office would have been wise to re-sign him given the current lack of a clear-cut center fielder.
Pillar led the Giants in almost every major offensive category last season and was an obvious leader in the clubhouse, reflected in his winning of the Willie Mac Award.
Tendering Pillar a contract in his final year of arbitration would have cost the Giants somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million in 2020. In the end, his WAR and his OBP did not match that cost in the eyes of team president Farhan Zaidi and the team decided it was best to move on.
The decision to non-tender Pillar did not preclude the Giants from signing him in free agency.
There was plenty of room for the Giants to outbid the Red Sox while still bringing him back at a discounted price. If they had offered Pillar somewhere in the $6-7 million range, they would have saved money on his arbitration projection, while at the same time going into the season with two spots in the outfield locked in.
Bringing Pillar back would have also been a morale boost for both the fan base and the clubhouse.
It’s clear the players respect Pillar since the Willie Mac Award is voted on annually by current and former players. Bringing back a solid clubhouse presence would have been a welcome move for a team that lost its two best pitchers during the offseason.
Fans would have been reassured that at least the Giants re-upped with their best offensive player for another season. With an offense that is bound to struggle, it would not have hurt to bring back a guy who would stabilize the lineup.
Maybe they are right to see if any of the younger players have potential out in center, but none of the young options strike me as long-term solutions. To me, signing Pillar would have been the right move to stabilize the outfield and win a few more games.