Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: Outfielder Kevin Pillar

(Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images) /

A veteran defensive wizard outfielder could be a free agent target for the Pittsburgh Pirates

General manager Ben Cherington has multiple needs to address for the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason. One of these needs is the outfield. After a historically good rookie season Bryan Reynolds has an otufield spot locked up for 2020. Otherwise, the outfield is a question mark.

Starling Marte remains the team’s All-Star center fielder. However, it will be a surprise if he is not traded before Opening Day. If healthy, Gregory Polanco will be in right field. That, however, is a big if. Also, potential fourth outfielder Jason Martin had offseason shoulder surgery and may not be ready to go for Opening Day.

So, even if Marte is still a Pirate come Opening Day, the team will be in need of outfield help. A free agent that could potentially help in the outfield is veteran defensive wizard Kevin Pillar.

After spending the first six seasons of his career with the Toronto Blue Jay, Pillar was traded to the San Francisco Giants on April 2, 2019. As a long time Blue Jay, Pillar is a player that Cherington has a history with.

After being non-tendered by the Giants, Pillar is a now a free agent. Throughout his career Pillar has struggled offensively. However, he has experienced a power surge the past two seasons. He is also one of the best defensive players in all of baseball, regardless of position.

Last season Pillar played in nearly every game, appearing in 161. He slashed .259/.287/.432 with a .173 ISO and a wRC+ of 85. This slugging was a new career high, topping his previous career high of .426 in 2018, while his ISO fell just short of the career best .174 ISO he posted in 2018. His 21 home runs in 2019 was also a new career high, and his 10.0% extra base hit rate was the second highest of his career behind the 11.1% he posted in 2018.

As we mentioned earlier, he has experienced a power surge the past two seasons.

What Pillar remains known for is his defense. He owns a lifetime defensive runs saved of +60 in the outfield. This includes a +45 DRS in center field. In 2015 he was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year for center fielders, and he took home the same award from the Fielding Bible in 2016.

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If the Pirates do indeed trade Marte, they can play Pillar in center field over Reynolds who is a poor defender in center. Even if they keep Marte, Pillar can man the difficult PNC Park left field with Reynolds moving to right field. If the team keeps Marte and Polanco is healthy, Pillar would be a strong fourth outfielder.