And you thought there were overreactions on the Cubs slow start to the season.
I’m obviously joking, but the Toronto Blue Jays really are already selling off one of their most popular players: outfielder Kevin Pillar. The move was announced by the team today:
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 2, 2019
Pillar, 30, has never been a positive offensive contributor, but his defense in center field has routinely been so far above average that he’s been an everyday starter since the beginning of the 2015 season. In fact, during that 2015 season, Pillar managed to rack up 3.7 WAR, despite a below-average slash line of .278/.314/.399 (94 wRC+). That’s quite impressive.
You can think of him like the Canadian version of Jason Heyward, but at a more valuable defensive position, and not on a huge long-term contract.
Unfortunately – and unlike Jason Heyward – Pillar’s offensive production has gotten even worse over the last three years, and his defense took a bit of a hit, too – at least, according to the advanced defensive metrics. And after starting out the 2019 season with an ice-cold 1-17 with no walks, the Blue Jays decided that was the end of it, and it was time to go in-house.
I framed this as “THEY’RE ALREADY SELLING!” and that’s technically true, but also, Pillar’s lack of offense and potentially declining defensive value softens the “loss” quite a bit. Pillar is under control (via arbitration) for 2019 and 2020 and will make $5.8M this season. Out in San Francisco, perhaps his defense will make him even more valuable.
In exchange for Pillar, the Blue Jays have received infielder Alen Hanson (26-years old, -0.5 career WAR over 243 games), right-handed pitching prospect Juan De Paula (the Giants’ 18th rated prospect according to MLB Pipeline), and Derek Law … whom you might remember better this way:
— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 11, 2016
After posting a 2.13 ERA and 2.53 FIP over 55.0 IP in 2016, Law had a 5.06 ERA in 2017 and a 7.43 ERA in 2018, resulting in a demotion to Triple-A. Law, 25, is not arbitration eligible until 2021 and is under team control until 2024. I suppose he could somehow rediscover whatever magic he conjured for that season back in 2016, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Instead, the Juan De Paula seems to be the real prize for the Blue Jays, here, and it’s not really a bad one. De Paula is only 21 and posted a 1.71 ERA (3.46 FIP) over 47.1 IP at Low-A last year. He probably needs to be tested at a higher level, but that’s not a bad take for someone like Pillar, whose best years are clearly behind him, and whose team is rebuilding anyway.
Here’s a little reminder of what Pillar could do back in the day (this isn’t even all of our Baseball is Fun videos on him … dude was the definition of a daily highlight reel):
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) July 2, 2018
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) May 9, 2017
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 29, 2017
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 21, 2017