The Blue Jays are likely shopping several expiring contracts as the non-waiver trade deadline nears. They should extend the net to include evin Pillar, despite the two years of contract control remaining.
Despite the lack of much early trade movement from the Blue Jays so far, it’s expected that they’ll be among the busiest sellers at the trade deadline this year. Their headline piece in J.A. Happ got another start against the Red Sox on Thursday, and while it was far from his best, I don’t believe it’ll hurt his value on the trade market. Quality starting pitching is hard to find, and nobody is perfect every time out.
There were a few other highlights in the game, including Devon Travis‘ grand slam to bring the contest back to respectability, but the Jays ultimately dropped the contest by a score of 9-5. The other highlight, and one that’s almost easy to forget these days, is that Kevin Pillar made yet another sensational catch.
Ho hum, just another day at the office.
We’ve come to expect that sort of thing from the blue-collar outfielder, and that’s because he consistently delivers highlight reel catches in centre field. I wrote an article recently suggesting that Pillar might finally get the Gold Glove award that’s eluded him thus far in his career, despite several years of this sort of thing happening on the regular. He’s certainly doing everything he can to build his case. I hope the Blue Jays are also stockpiling these jaw-dropping grabs into a highlight reel, and using them to sell California native on the market as well, hopefully at the top of his value. I don’t know that we’ll ever see it much higher than it is now.
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I’ve written about this in the past as well, and I’m sure pretty much any writer who has covered the Blue Jays over the last few years would say the same. The story remains consistent for the 29 year old, despite how many times we believe that he’s finally breaking out at the plate for good.
Unfortunately his bat hasn’t performed to the same level as his glove, even if he started the season hot out of the gates again. Just as it happened in 2017, he hasn’t been able to keep up the production on the offensive side of the ball, even when he has us hoping that he’s finally taken that significant stride into becoming a plus contributor at the plate.
When you see what he’s capable of during hot stretches, you see a player that becomes one of the more valuable outfielders in baseball. However, when he comes back to earth, which is the majority of the time, his value returns to a more replaceable value.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to dismiss what he’s accomplished the last few years, even with limited offensive growth. He earned 4.9 bWAR in 2015, followed by 3.5 in 2016, 2.8 in 2017, and 1.7 earned thus far this season. WAR isn’t everything, but by this measurement he’s been one of the most valuable players on the team since becoming a regular starter, even if he’s been maddening at times on offence.
But when you look at that .243/.275/.401 slash line in 334 at bats, it’s has to become the latest dose of reality that this is who he is. That doesn’t mean he can’t provide value for a big league ball club, and he’s been doing that for a long time in Toronto. However, his fit with the current direction of this franchise may not make a lot of sense, especially as he theoretically slows down a bit in the outfield as he gets older. He’s known for throwing his body into harms way on the regular, and even the advanced metrics show that he’s slowed a bit from a few years ago, even if there’s no proof of that with the naked eye.
I’m not suggesting the Blue Jays should just hand him to an interested contender either. Ultimately trading him before the deadline will require an outfield needy team that’s in a playoff position, and that’s not the easiest thing to find. It might be easier to move him for a quality return in the offseason, but I believe the Blue Jays should definitely explore it here in July as well. A hot week or two at the plate would definitely help, if Pillar’s bat is willing to cooperate, and all is takes for a contender to feel a need in the outfield is an injury.
With the Blue Jays having the guys like Anthony Alford waiting in the minor league wings, and plenty of other talented outfielders in the system, they can certainly afford to exchange Pillar for some minor league talent with upside. Sooner or later those youngsters will likely overtake Pillar anyway, and while it might not be the most popular move with the fan base in the short term, it probably makes a lot of sense to try and trade him now.