Should The Toronto Blue Jays Trade Kevin Pillar?

by Brendan Panikkar | Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
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Kevin Pillar

Could the Blue Jays trade Kevin Pillar this off-season?

In Spring Training of 2015, Kevin Pillar was entering Dunedin looking to battle for a spot on the Toronto Blue Jays Opening Day roster. The Blue Jays had acquired Michael Saunders to play left field, obviously Jose Bautista is in right, but Pillar and Mississauga native Dalton Pompey battled for the starting center field job, which Pompey went into spring as the favourite to win the job.

As Spring Training got underway, the Blue Jays were dealt a big blow early on in the spring when Saunders stumbled on a sprinkler head in the Dunedin outfield and tore his ACL in his left knee. That opened the door for Pillar to take over and crack the Blue Jays roster. He still battled a bit with Ezequiel Carrera for a spot but after an oblique injury to Pillar, he came back and ran away with the left field job.

It’s a very good thing for the Blue Jays that Pillar made the Opening Day roster because since day 1, Pillar was making highlight reel catch after highlight reel catch. He also contributed offensively out of what was usually the 8th spot in the batting order. Pillar started relatively hot and cooled down mightily hitting only .181 and a brutal .237 OBP. In June, Pillar was scorching hot hitting .365 with a .380 OBP. July, Pillar cooled down to a good .283 average and .323 OBP. In August, Pillar cooled down even more to a .240 and .283 OBP.

Down the stretch and into the post-season, Pillar got hot at the right time hitting .333 and had a .368 OBP. In October, Pillar had 45 at bats for a .286 batting average and .333 OBP. Kevin Pillar had himself a nice little post-season for the Blue Jays and was one of the better bats in October.

Why did we go through and highlight Pillar’s month-by-month stats? To prove that Pillar is able to make in-season adjustments to what pitchers are throwing his way. Sure, Kevin Pillar doesn’t get on base at a very good clip, that hurts him quite a bit. He doesn’t walk much at all and he strikes out a fair bit, but he did get much better at the plate as the season went along. In the first half, Pillar struck out 15.8% of the time compared to just 10.6% of the time. He only raised his OBP slightly and didn’t walk any better.

Kevin Pillar is an interesting bat. He hits for contact with some extra base power and double digit home run power. 50.6% of the balls Pillar hit were medium speed contact, good for some extra base power. He also can steal bases, stealing 25 in 2015. Pillar has demonstrated an ability to improve himself as a hitter, but not so much so to the point where he will walk more, which means his OBP suffers despite the good batting average. For a bottom of the order bat, I would take Pillar’s bat batting 8th. He hits for a decent average, steals you bases, can potentially lengthen the order power wise, and is near 100 in the wRC+ department. If Pillar was to improve his eye and walk more, he could be among the best all around center fielders in the game.

The question I want to know is, is Pillar someone the Blue Jays potentially dangle in a trade? Pillar was worth 4.3 wins in 2015, a total largely influenced by his outstanding defense but still, that was good for the 14th best outfielder in all of baseball. Isolate just center fielders and Pillar was the leagues 7th most valuable center fielder. Is Pillar ever going to have value as high as he did in 2015, again? Plus, the Blue Jays have Dalton Pompey waiting in the wings.

If the Blue Jays are to move Kevin Pillar this off-season, it would have to be for starting pitching. The most recent rumor has the Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians engaging in talks. The Blue Jays have a surplus in the outfield with Pillar, Pompey, Bautista, Ben Revere, and Michael Saunders. They also have Roemon Fields and Anthony Alford rising quickly in the minor leagues. The ultimate decision to move Pillar would be whether the Blue Jays believe Pillar can improve offensively, more so in the OBP category. If he does, he becomes a top center fielder. But he could also regress in 2016 with the bat. The one constant will be the glove.

If the Blue Jays are able to acquire a front end rotation starter like a Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland and Pillar is the center piece going to Cleveland, it is something the Blue Jays would be foolish to pass up. It also depends on how other teams view Dalton Pompey. Pompey is still young and full of potential, but he doesn’t have very much value right now and likely couldn’t fish you much on the trade market.

Kevin Pillar has the potential to be the Blue Jays center fielder for years to come. Can he keep it going offensively? He has proven he can adjust to pitching at every level he has been too. Was 2015 an anomaly? Perhaps. Perhaps not. These are the tough decisions a front office has to make. It would be a risk but for a Carrasco, you definitely move Pillar. I say the Blue Jays should dangle Pillar in trade talks. If they move him for a starter, fantastic. If they don’t and he returns in 2016, that’s fantastic too! Regardless, there is a strong case to trade Pillar and an equally strong case to keep him.

I am leaning more towards perhaps moving him in a trade. What about you?

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Brendan Panikkar
About the Author

Brendan Panikkar is a graduate of Brock University's Sport Management program. Currently, he is the Vice-President, Customer Service at North Aware. He loves all sports but baseball and football take precedent over hockey and basketball. Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Raptors

  • ladee_J

    absolutely not!!!!

  • deok

    If it gets a front line starter then yes. How much more would they have to throw in for Carrasco though as he is signed to a relatively friendly contract for 5 years. If the answer is not much more then you do it every day of the week and twice on Sundays

    • rb in oregon

      Let me preface my comments by saying that I’am totally a Pillar fan. Firstly, Carrasco is out if Salazar available!!! Salazar is a BEAST, and he’s consistent. Lets be honest here. If we’re building a pennant and WS winning team here, guys that bat .220 are out. If Izturis bats .220, but he’s fast, I’m sorry but he’s out. Speed is nothing if you can’t get on. End of story. That means that along with Pillar, we can package, Smoak, but not Colabello. I really don’t care how many homeruns he hits, he also hits into more DP’s, grounds out and strikes out with too many RISP. If we could grab Salazar, at his age, NOW, we pull the trigger!!!

  • Gary73

    Cleveland wants a first baseman, and I would prefer Danny Salazar to Carrasco. Offer Pillar and their choice of Smoak/Colabello for Salazar, who was recently rated as having baseball’s best curveball. Salazar 3 years younger than Carasco.

    • Harry Carey

      I’d be up for that

      • Clint

        We, all 12 of us Indians fans, would run the front office out of town with pitchforks if they traded any of their top four pitchers for that combination of players. I like Pillar a lot, but not at the expense of top of the rotation pitching. And Smoak/Colabello??? A career .224 hitter and a 32yr old with only 700 ab’s in MLB? Toronto will have to do a lot better then that.

        • Gary73

          What if you were offered Encarnacian and we’re able to sign him to a 3 year extension (he is 33) and got Pompey too? I’m not sure I would do that, but they say that’s the 1st sign your trade is getting closer, when it makes you uncomfortable.

          • Clint

            I would begin walking to Toronto tonight (from NE Ohio) and carry both of them back to Cleveland if I had to. A few more smaller pieces would have to go to Tor from Clev for that kind of hall 9in my opinion). But it’s all a moot point-Even though Encarnacion will be 34 at free agency he’ll be waaaayy out of the Dolans price range. I like your thinking though, it has to be painful for both sides when you’re giving up players you like.

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  • BlueJays35

    It would have to be Pillar + for any decent SP, obviously. The gamble on Pompey being productive is worth the risk because of TO’s filthy offense. I don’t think Pillar/Smoak would get you any sort of deal, and I don’t move Colabello (So cheap, great BA/OBP, and his defense is underrated). I doubt the Jays are able to make a deal with Cleveland for their SPs.

  • Steve Harold

    I would rather keep Pillar and move a big bat, EE or Jose..They will not be wanting to sign both and Pompey can replace JB in right..

  • Enoch

    His first full year to which he excelled at and now the envious wants Toronto to trade him.
    Keep drooling people the only place Pillar will be in 2016 is in center field for Toronto.

  • imtheo .

    There is no way that Cleveland would trade Carrasco in a deal in which Pillar is the center piece. Carrasco is 28 years old and signed through 2018 for just $19 million total. The Indians top two minor leaguers both play CF and are both ranked in the top 50 overall prospects as well. Toronto should be able to get a decent SP in return for a package that includes Pillar, but it definitely isn’t going to be Carrasco and most likely won’t be with Cleveland.

  • Eric Lord

    Honestly, I wouldn’t trade Pillar if I was Toronto. He is so valuable to that team defensively. He saves the pitching staff so many runs with his defense. Pompey was handed the job this spring and couldn’t keep it. I like him, but I’m not sure he’s ready to contribute every day offensively. I’d rather keep Pillar in center, unless I’m getting a bona fide ace. Carrasco isn’t an ace. The Blue Jays have Stroman, Estrada, Dickey & then Chavez or Hutchinson. They need a #1.

    • RyanforReal

      You wouldn’t give Pillar for Carrasco? Straight up? Are you serious? Pillar is a defence only player. I would give up Pillar to get a top 2 guy. Bumping everyone down after Stroman should be key to this offseason. I’d personally take whatever is offered for Revere.

  • rb in oregon

    You, Brendan Panikkar, are irresponsible for even suggesting such a garbage trade. There is NO WAY that Cleveland even entertains such a trade. You must have gotten your degree in irresponsible sports coverage. You are such a tool!!!

  • RyanforReal

    People seem to be forgetting that Saunders is the best LF the Jays have. I’d try to talk Cleveland, or another team, into taking Revere an an for a SP. Problem is, the Jays FO is done. This is the rotation. Jays fans are dreaming that more is coming, but it’s not. Chavez isn’t getting paid 10 times what Hendricks is to do the exact same job. The rotation is as follows, Stro, Estrada, Dickey, Happ, Chavez. Now, of course a guy like Hutch can bump Chavez etc…. But, this is the staff. Make no mistake. Follow the money.

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