Set to reach his 31st birthday in January, Pillar was slated to earn a projected $9.7MM in his final trip through the arbitration process. That proved too rich for the San Francisco organization, which played Pillar regularly after picking him up early in the 2019 season from the Blue Jays.
Frankly, it’s not surprising to see the Giants pass at that price. Pillar is a gritty performer who still makes his share of highlight-reel plays and has good pop for an up-the-middle player. But advanced analysis suggests he has lost a step in the field and he continues to turn in cringeworthy on-base numbers.
Last season, Pillar slashed just .259/.287/.432 (85 wRC+). That marked his fourth consecutive season of offensive performance more than ten percent below league average. When Pillar was an elite defender in center, that perhaps would have sufficed, even at a relatively lofty price point. However, he’s rated as a mere average center fielder the past two season, combining for -7 defensive runs saved and +2 runs per Ultimate Zone Rating. Statcast, meanwhile, pegged him as a 51st percentile outfielder in 2019. Combined with his lackluster bat, that defensive downturn proved too much for the Giants.