The Boston Red Sox are rumored to have interest in free agent Kevin Pillar, an excellent defensive player who would add depth to the outfield.
The outfield is suddenly an area of need for the Boston Red Sox in the wake of the blockbuster deal that shipped their superstar right fielder out of town, which may have them turning to the scraps remaining on the free agent market.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Red Sox are among the teams interested in free agent outfielder Kevin Pillar.
Boston is expected to roll out an outfield consisting of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Alex Verdugo, all of whom are left-handed. Verdugo actually has reverse splits that show he’s fared better against southpaws in his brief career. The other two have had their struggles against lefties, particularly the streaky Bradley.
A right-handed bat to platoon in one of the outfield spots would be useful. Pillar has posted significantly better numbers against lefties throughout his career with a .281/.313/.453 slash line.
After spending over six years with the Toronto Blue Jays to begin his career, Pillar spent the majority of last season with the San Francisco Giants. Despite a drastic ballpark downgrade in moving to pitcher-friendly Oracle Park, Pillar produced his best offensive season. He hit .264 with a .735 OPS and 21 home runs in 156 games for the Giants following an early-April trade.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Pillar has thrived at Fenway Park, hitting .307 with a .719 OPS in 47 career games in Boston.
Defense has always been Pillar’s best tool. He’s capable of playing all three outfield spots but the vast majority of his time has been spent in center field where he’s piled up 45 defensive runs saved and a 26.6 UZR over 6326 2/3 career innings.
These advanced metrics indicate the 31-year old is no longer at his peak from when he was among the league leaders in these categories but he remains a solid outfielder.
Pillar was entering his third year of arbitration eligibility when the Giants non-tendered him, granting him free agency. He was projected to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million, which is just shy of what the Red Sox are paying Bradley at the same stage of his career. He should cost quite a bit less to sign in free agency unless his market suddenly explodes. With the rebuilding Pirates being the only other team mentioned in Heyman’s report, that seems unlikely.
The bigger question is whether or not the Red Sox would offer a multi-year deal. He would be a potential replacement for Bradley if he leaves in free agency next winter but Pillar’s declining defensive metrics might leave Boston hesitant to offer more than a one-year deal.
With the Dodgers trade creating open roster spots and plenty of financial freedom, signing a veteran outfielder who provides solid defense and can produce at the plate in a platoon role makes a fair amount of sense.