Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays
Kevin Pillar was built in the same lab as Bradley Jr. He has an undeniable ability to snag fly balls beyond the reach of most centerfielders, and his ability to do so is the singular reason he is a major league ballplayer.
What’s worrisome: defensive metrics suggest that ability is fading. Pillar peaked in 2016 with 21 DRS and 12.2 UZR, but that season was bookended by two other pretty great defensive years, 14 DRS, 6.7 UZR in 2015 and 15 DRS, 5.4 UZR in 2017.
Last season, his age-30 season, Pillar fell off to -2 DRS and 2.3 UZR. As his defense slipped, however, his offense improved enough to hold Pillar steady as a 2.0 fWAR player for the past two seasons, 2.4 fWAR the year before that (2016). Steamer projects more of the same in 2019, a 2.1 fWAR season. That’s consistency.
He’s more-or-less the definition of a second-division starter, meaning definitely a starter on a non-contender, but on a playoff team he might not get everyday at-bats. In Pillar’s ideal situation, he fills JBJ’s role, hitting eight or ninth behind a stacked offense while not being asked to do too much with the stick.
In the stacked AL East, the Blue Jays have no illusions about contenting in 2019. Plus, with some of their top prospects on the verge of making their ML debut, their organization is focused on augmenting the core around those guys. Pillar doesn’t fit that timetable.
He’s reasonably priced, set to make $5.8MM this season, and controllable for 2020. Because of the extra year of control, Toronto will want a young asset or two to give him up, and there’s reason to question whether it’s prudent for the Diamondbacks to give up prospects of any caliber at this juncture.
Still, if the prospect price isn’t too high, Pillar would help round out a balanced lineup. If Toronto asks for the farm, the Diamondbacks should look elsewhere.