San Francisco Giants made the correct, not popular decision with Kevin Pillar

San Francisco Giants (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
San Francisco Giants (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco Giants may not have made the most popular move non-tendering Kevin Pillar, but they did ultimately make the correct one.

The San Francisco Giants received more out of Kevin Pillar than they could have ever hoped for when they acquired him in a trade from the Toronto Blue Jays just days into the 2019 MLB season.

The 30-year-old outfielder went on to lead the team in home runs, RBI, and stolen bases as he became the first Giants players since Brandon Crawford to reach the 20-home run mark.

And perhaps more importantly, he was awarded the 2019 Willie Mac Award by the organization given to the Giants player who is “most inspirational.” It was a testament to his high character and work ethic and was a part of the reason so many Giants fans grew to love him.

But on Monday, the Giants made the decision to non-tender their arbitration-eligible outfielder and Pillar is now set to hit the open market. His time in San Francisco appears to be over after just one season.

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And although this may be difficult for many Giants fans to come to terms with, this was the correct move for the franchise going forward.

The argument to keep Pillar is a sound one. The former Blue Jays outfielder was a huge surprise at the plate last season and on a team devoid of right-handed bats that hit for power, Pillar seemed to fit the bill.

On top of that, he came with an astute reputation of superb fielding and certainly paid dividends in the mass confines of Oracle Park. That isn’t even to mention what he brought to the table as a leader and clubhouse presence.

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There are reasons to consider keeping Pillar. But there are also baseball and financial reasons to consider letting him walk.

Pillar will be 31-years-old next month and was set to make $10 million in his final year of arbitration. And despite his impressive numbers on paper, a deeper look into his stats shows some troubling developments.

Pillar ranked second-to-last out of all qualified National League hitters with a woeful .293 on-base percentage. The seven-year MLB veteran walked just 18 times in 2019 — something that likely wasn’t very appealing to an organization preaching plate discipline.

And while he may have a reputation as a stellar defender, Pillar actually finished the year with negative-5 Defensive Runs Saved, per FanGraphs and ranked 12th out of 14 qualified National League center fielders in the SABR index.

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Despite his many highlight-reel plays, Kevin Pillar was actually a below-average center fielder in 2019 — and by a wide margin too.

So then, what exactly would the Giants be paying $10 million for? A 31-year-old center fielder who doesn’t get on base, isn’t a plus-defender, and hit just 21 home runs a year ago.

From a fan perspective, it’s sad to see him go. Pillar was a beloved player who played with heart, grit, and determination. But Giants fans must realize that keeping him on the team just isn’t worth the value.

Would he make the team better? Probably. But the Giants would rather rotate younger players in the outfield who might actually have a long-term future with the team. Because let’s face it, even if the Giants tendered Pillar, he likely wasn’t going to stick around past next year.

Meanwhile, players like Alex Dickerson, Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar, and Jaylin Davis all could very well be a part of the future plans. And it’s important to see which players will stick and which will fall by the wayside.

Pillar is a known commodity who simply wasn’t worth the $10 million he was owed — not on this team at least.

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Despite his heart, his flashy defensive plays, and his lone MVP vote, the Giants made the right move non-tendering Kevin Pillar.