Both Pittsburgh (Starling Marte) and Boston (Mookie Betts), of course, have completed trades shipping high-profile outfielders out of town. The Red Sox added an immediate option to step into Betts’ shoes, Alex Verdugo, but his acquisition gives the club three left-handed-hitting outfielders. Pairing Pillar with that trio would give the Sox an option at any of three outfield slots — and one who carries a respectable .281/.313/.453 career batting line against left-handed pitching. Notably, with Betts and David Price traded to the Dodgers, Red Sox ownership has accomplished its goal of dropping south of the luxury tax barrier; Boston is currently about $9.5MM shy of that $208MM cutoff point, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez.
The path to regular at-bats in Pittsburgh seems more direct for Pillar. Bryan Reynolds and Gregory Polanco are likely to roam two of the three outfield spots — likely the corners — and the Buccos’ other options are utilityman JT Riddle and reserve outfielder Guillermo Heredia. Prospect Jason Martin could eventually emerge as a spot, but he’s rehabbing from October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and could be limited early in the year.
Pillar hit a career-best 21 home runs in 2019 and notched his fifth straight season with 14 or more steals. His once-elite glovework now grades out closer to average, but he should be at least a serviceable option in center and could yet see a rebound in that regard. However, Pillar also drew a walk in only 2.8 percent of his plate appearances, leading to a .287 on-base percentage that was the fourth-worst among all qualified hitters. Overall, Pillar’s .259/.287/.432 slash was 15 percent worse than league average by measure of wRC+ and 11 percent below average per OPS+.
Those lackluster on-base skills, the diminished defensive ratings and a projected $9.7MM salary (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) all surely played a role in the Giants’ decision to non-tender Pillar earlier in the offseason. He’s certainly in line to earn less than that projection at this point, but the veteran center fielder still seems like a candidate to land a Major League deal — be it in Boston, Pittsburgh or elsewhere.