The Dodgers have signed veteran outfielder Kevin Pillar to a minor league contract, per a club announcement. Pillar, a client of All Bases Covered Sports Management, will head to Major League Spring Training and vie for a roster spot. He’d earn a $2.5MM base salary upon making the club, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Pillar, 33, is a veteran of nine big league seasons who’ll hope to work his way into the outfield mix in Los Angeles. He spent the 2021 season with the Mets, batting .231/.277/.415 with 15 home runs, 11 doubles, a pair of triples and four stolen bases (in seven tries) through 347 trips to the plate. That was the fifth team in the past three seasons for Pillar, who’s begun to bounce around the league a bit after a lengthier run in Toronto to begin his career.
A former 32nd-round pick of the Blue Jays (2011), Pillar debuted just two years after being drafted. He saw sparing action in 2013-14 before settling in as a fixture in center field with the Jays from 2015-18. Pillar was Toronto’s primary center fielder for that span of four years, batting a combined .263/.301/.401 while regularly showing off his penchant for highlight-reel diving grabs.
For the bulk of his career, Pillar had the power, speed and certainly the defensive chops to offset a perennially low walk rate that tamped down his on-base percentage each year. From 2015-17, in particular, Pillar was a defensive juggernaut, racking up a ridiculous 52 Defensive Runs Saved with a 24.3 Ultimate Zone Rating. Pillar was snubbed in Gold Glove voting more than once in that stretch, and by 2018, the reckless abandon with which he played the outfield perhaps began to take its toll. His defensive metrics in center quickly went south in 2018, and by 2019 the Jays had designated him for assignment.
Pillar has since spent time in San Francisco, Colorado, Boston and Queens. Over the past three seasons, he’s batted .256/.293/.433 (90 wRC+) with 42 home runs and 23 steals. He’s been better against left-handed pitching in that time, as one would expect for a right-handed hitter, posting a .279/307/.499 batting line. Pillar’s average sprint speed has dipped a bit in recent years, though, and Statcast suggests that his initial jump on fly-balls has also slowed as he’s progressed into his 30s. He’s still posted solid defensive marks in the corners, however.
On the whole, Pillar isn’t the dynamic highlight-reel machine that he was during his peak with the Jays, but he’s a decent bat against left-handed pitching who has some pop against righties and can play all three outfield spots (even if he’s below average in center at this point). That’s a nice bench player for a contending club, but the Dodgers have a crowded outfield mix as it it. Beyond the starting trio of Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and AJ Pollock, L.A. also has versatile superutility man Chris Taylor and infielder/outfielder Matt Beaty as outfield options. Top infield prospect Gavin Lux has begun to see time in the outfield as well, and the Dodgers also invited outfielders Stefen Romero and Jason Martin to spring training after signing them to minor league deals.