Pillar held a $2.9MM player option for the 2022 season, which did not carry a buyout, while the Mets held a $6.4MM club option with a $1.4MM buyout. Pillar’s decision was due first, and he opted to decline his end knowing that he had least the $1.4MM buyout of the Mets’ club option waiting for him. It’s a bit of a bet on himself, but so long as he tops $1.5MM in 2022 earnings, he’ll come out ahead in the gambit.
It was a rather unconventional contract that essentially boiled down to one of three outcomes: two years and $6.5MM (if Pillar exercised his end); two years and $10MM (if the Mets exercised their end); or one year and $5MM (both parties declining).
It was a convoluted way to get there, but the Mets effectively were able to sign Pillar for a year and $5MM while utilizing a player option (which counts as “guaranteed” money for luxury-tax purposes) to reduce the luxury hit to $3.25MM. The Mets wound up a good bit shy of the luxury threshold anyhow, but Pillar’s unique contract structure would’ve provided some additional in-season flexibility had they sought to add some payroll at the deadline.
Pillar’s 2021 season was disrupted by a grisly injury that saw him sustain multiple nasal fractures when an errant Jacob Webb fastball hit him in the face. Down on the field for several minutes following that frightening hit-by-pitch, Pillar was eventually able to walk off the field under his own power. Remarkably, Pillar missed only two weeks of action — a welcome outcome after what carried the potential for a far more severe injury.
With the Mets, Pillar tallied 327 plate appearances and turned in a .231/.277/.415 batting line with 15 home runs, 11 doubles, a pair of triples and four stolen bases. His 3.2% walk rate was the lowest in baseball for any player with at least 300 trips to the plate — an ongoing theme throughout Pillar’s career that has continually curbed his on-base percentage. Defensively, Pillar clocked in below average by most measures. Although he was once an otherworldly defender in center, he hasn’t turned in a positive mark in Defensive Runs Saved since 2017.
It’s a thin market for free-agent center fielders, though, and Pillar’s extensive experience there (and ability to play both corners) ought to generate some interest. He’s also a career .280/.312/.459 hitter against left-handed pitching (104 wRC+), so he could land a spot as a part-time outfielder on a contender’s bench next year or perhaps a larger role on a rebuilding team in search of an affordable veteran option.