Kevin Pillar was non-tendered by the San Francisco Giants on Monday, becoming a free agent. The Cleveland Indians had the 18th-best outfield in MLB last season, and ranked 20th in production from centre field.
Pillar has been a reliable, if unimpressive, hitter throughout his career. His OPS+ was 93 in 2019, and he’s hovered around that mark throughout his career. It’s the same when it comes to wRC+. Pillar is a below-average, but consistent, hitter. He barely walks and strikes out between 88 and 100 times per season. What you see is what you get offensively.
His reputation was established as an elite defender and whatever metric you pick, that’s no longer the case. DRS has Pillar around league average, Outs Above Average places him in the 51st percentile.
The Giants’ decision to cut ties with Pillar – despite him winning the Willie Mac Award – was about value for money. The former Toronto Blue Jay is an iron man, but he’s no more than a solid centre fielder. Projected to make nearly $10 million in arbitration, it’s easy to see why Farhan Zaidi felt the money could be spent better elsewhere.
For the Cleveland Indians, however, Pillar may well be available for less. A two-year deal with $11 million guaranteed should tempt him.
Cleveland are never players for big-money free agents. They are wary of building a hefty payroll. Rumours of trading Francisco Lindor are surfacing. Pillar, and similar players, could be an option if they want to give contention another go in 2020 without breaking the bank. Pillar is consistent, he stays healthy and is renowned as a great locker-room presence.
Pillar is a player that can raise the floor in Cleveland’s outfield. Tyler Naquin has to prove that 2019 wasn’t a fluke offensively, Yasiel Puig is a free agent and Jake Bauers struggled mightily at the plate. Pillar could be an option on the corner alongside Oscar Mercado.
There are plenty of players who could be a fit for the Indians, should they decide to bolster their 2020 team rather than retool. Pillar is one of them, and after being left go by the Giants, could prove to be a decent addition.