The Red Sox were left with an open 40-man spot following the trade of Mookie Betts and David Price (one was, of course, filled up by Alex Verdugo), but it appears that open spot won’t be open for long. According to a report by Jon Heyman, the team is close to signing free agent outfielder Kevin Pillar.
Kevin Pillar is close to a Red Sox deal. Boston needed righty hitting OF. Plus Pillar allows them to maintain excellent OF defense following loss of superstar Mookie.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 11, 2020
Like Heyman says, Pillar gives the Red Sox a right-handed outfielder who can play defense. Yes, I see the irony in that and I am going to choose to ignore it.
Pillar is likely a familiar name to Red Sox fans, having spent the majority of his career in Toronto. He was traded early last season to the Giants, where he spent the majority of 2019. Overall, Pillar has been a below-average hitter in his career, drawing very few walks but also not really striking out too much. He has also added some power over the last couple of seasons, finishing with Isolated Powers (SLG - AVG) of .174 and .173 the last two years, respectively. Last season in 161 games and 645 plate appearances he hit .258/.287/.432 for a wRC+ of 85. His career wRC+ is 86.
The 31-year-old makes up for the subpar bat with good defense and good speed. He had long been one of the challengers to Jackie Bradley Jr. for Gold Gloves in his time with Toronto, though he never actually won the award. On the bases, he’s consistently stolen 14 or 15 bases in each of the last four years and has regularly been a positive contributor with his glove by FanGraphs base running metric, BsR. Last season he was the ninth-most valuable runner by BsR.
With the Red Sox, Pillar would figure to serve as a fourth outfielder, though one who plays a bit more often than a typical fourth outfielder. He is a right-handed hitter who has a career 103 wRC+ against lefties and last year put up a mark of 105. That fits well with a Red Sox roster whose three starting outfielders hit from the left side. Presumably, most of Pillar’s at bats against righties would come in place of Jackie Bradley Jr. Pillar also represents insurance for injury to Alex Verdugo, who battled back issues last year and could be slow to ramping up this spring.