Blue Jays: Don’t underestimate Kevin Pillar’s value

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 10: Kevin Pillar
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 10: Kevin Pillar /

With the recent additions to the outfield, some fans and writers have asked if Kevin Pillar should be traded. While anything is possible, it would be short sighted to underestimate his value to the club.

The Blue Jays’ roster is finally starting to take more shape in the last 10 days or so, especially after the additions of Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk to shore up the outfield picture. There are a few areas left to address, but earlier trades for Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz have the Blue Jays in a much better position depth wise than they were last year, at least on the offensive side of the diamond.

The recent work of Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have some folks wondering how the outfield will eventually stack up, which is suddenly an area of depth in the organization. In addition to Granderson and Grichuk, the Blue Jays have returning incumbents in Kevin Pillar in centre field, and Steve Pearce in left field, Ezequiel Carrera as the 4th (or 5th?) outfielder, as well as youngsters like Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, Dwight Smith Jr., and more who are expected to compete in spring training for position on the depth chart. Solarte and Diaz both have some limited experience in the outfield as well, and depending on the health of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis, they could be used in the corners on occasion too.

I wrote an article yesterday about how I think the Blue Jays may be forced to trade an outfielder eventually, and the most likely candidate to me is Ezequiel Carrera. He signed for 1.9 million before going to arbitration, and is likely the most expendable candidate of the group, especially with Granderson’s addition. However, the Blue Jays could decide to go another route, and it’s been talked about a fair amount in some circles of the internet over the last few days.

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Would the Blue Jays consider trading Kevin Pillar? With Grichuk on the team and having the ability to man the position, it’s possible. If not Grichuk, all of Hernandez, Pompey, and Alford are capable defensively up the middle, so there are options. I even understand the logic, as Pillar has struggled to grow much on offence over the last few seasons, showed a little bit of defensive regression according to Fangraphs, and is starting to get more expensive, receiving a raise to 2.6 million in 2018. Add it all up and I understand why the idea is being discussed.

That said, I hope people understand that the 29 year old is still a very valuable player even if he doesn’t have five tools to draw from. Even in what was considered a bit of a down year for him in 2017, Pillar finished with a slash line of .256/.300/.404 with 16 home runs, 42 RBI, and 15 stolen bases. He added 37 doubles, and most importantly earned a bWAR score of 2.8. It wasn’t as high as his 3.4 in 2016, or the 5.2 in 2015, but the metric shows he brings value to the club in many ways, even if watching him at the plate can be maddening at times.

Looking at Fangraphs, the rankings for “Superman” are at 1.9 WAR for 2017, after a 3.3 the year before and a 4.3 in 2015. Steamer has him projected for a bit of a bounce back at 2.3 WAR for 2018 as well, which seems reasonable as he’s just entering his age 29 season. Whether you’d like to admit it or not, there’s value there for the Blue Jays, at at 2.6 million there’s an easy argument that it’s a bargain.

So before you go screaming for the Blue Jays to trade their elder statesman in the outfield (with Bautista gone, that’s legit), don’t undervalue what he brings to the ball club. Sure, I’d like to see him hit .280-.290 as well, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help the club in other ways. And don’t give me this “lolly-gagging so he can dive” nonsense either, the guy puts his body on the line on a consistent basis.

I’m not saying Pillar should be untouchable, not at all, but rather it shouldn’t be a case of some fans borderline calling for his head now that they see a few new toys to play with. He’ll still provide the anchor in the outfield, and alongside Grichuk we should see some improved outfield defence, regardless of who is in left field.

If the right deal comes along for their starting centre fielder, perhaps they have the depth to entertain the idea of trading him to upgrade another area of need, however, that doesn’t mean they should pursue the idea necessarily. He’s not as bad as some of you seem to think he is.

Next: Trading an outfielder may be inevitable