Blue Jays: Maybe now is the right time to trade Kevin Pillar
After an up and down season for Kevin Pillar, the 28 year old has a lot to prove in 2018, both for his future in Toronto, and career trajectory in general.
Generally speaking, when a team enters an offseason in need of a replacement for the starting right fielder, it seems kinda foolish to talk about trading one of the remaining starters. And yet, despite the fact that I’ve always been a fan of Kevin Pillar, I believe there’s a solid argument to be made for trading him this offseason.
After another inconsistent year at the plate, Pillar may not turn out to be the offensive threat that we all hoped he could turn into. That’s acceptable when you’re a gold glove calibre centre fielder, but it’s always felt like there was unlocked potential in his bat. In 2017, he finished with a slash line of .256/.300/.404 with 16 home runs, 42 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 154 games played. He was named as a finalist for the gold glove again this season, and may finally get a shot at the honour with Kevin Kiermaier missing significant time on the DL.
In April it looked like Pillar may finally break out at the plate, as he hit over .300, and eventually moved to the top of the lineup. He was one of the only Blue Jays producing at the plate, and he had fans salivating at the thought of him adding offensive value in addition to being “Superman” in the outfield. Unfortunately he crashed down to earth and struggled his way back to the bottom third of the order, and eventually settled closer to his career norms.
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As I said above, it’s okay to not be the greatest hitter in the league when you bring the kind of glove work to the diamond that Pillar does. He’s proven that with WAR marks of 5.2, 3.4, and 2.8 over the last 3 seasons as a starter, though the downward trend is a little troubling, which gets me back to the idea of trading him now.
Pillar will open next season at the age of 29, and may have arguably peaked already in his young career, especially if he never improves at the plate. The defensive metrics showed he was a little slower to the ball last season than the previous two, which could be a sign of wear and tear, which wouldn’t be a shock with the reckless way he plays the game.
At this stage, rival GM’s know him as a maniac on defence, and could look at him as a player with unlocked offensive potential, just as we have with the Blue Jays for several years now. Earning 11.4 WAR over the last three seasons is no small feat, and it wouldn’t be hard to sell him to the right team, one that could use an upgrade in the outfield, and can afford to sacrifice a little with the stick in order to get it. That said, and with all due respect, he’s always felt to me like a guy who looks better on paper than he does if you’re watching him every day.
He’s also set to get his first significant raise after earning around 600k in 2017. MLBtraderumors.com has him projected to earn four million in 2018, and while that’s still a relative bargain, it won’t be long until we’re asking ourselves if he’s worth what he’s being paid, again, especially if he doesn’t take strides at the plate.
With the front office having eyes on shaking things up, but still contending in 2018, Pillar could be the right guy to deal, providing the return makes sense for the immediate, and longer term future. The Blue Jays have Teoscar Hernandez on the roster with experience in centre field, and Anthony Alford is close to major league ready as well, and could push for a job this year at some point anyway.
Add it all up, and trading Pillar doesn’t sound so foolish after all, at least if you’re asking me. I’m not saying you have to actively shop him, but if rival GM’s want a MLB calibre player in return for a trade, he’s one player on the 25 man roster that they may be able to sacrifice. Even if we’d miss those ridiculous catches he provides on a seemingly nightly basis.