Giants trade for center fielder

Five games into the season and the Giants have made a trade to bolster their outfield, trading for Kevin Pillar from the Blue Jays.

The Giants and Blue Jays have announced a trade that will send outfielder Kevin Pillar to San Francisco. Heading back to Toronto in return are righty Derek Law, recently designated infielder Alen Hanson, and righty Juan De Paula.


Pillar, 30, is known for being something of a human highlight reel. From 2015-2017, he was worth +14, +21, and +15 runs by defensive runs saved (DRS). In 2018, he dropped to -2 runs. UZR likes Pillar a touch more in 2018 and has him at 7.9 runs above average per 150 games in CF over his career. He might have lost a step, but he’s still an average-ish defender in the OF.

What Pillar isn’t going to do is walk much. Among all active players since 2015, when he became a full-time player, Pillar’s walk percentage of 4.3 percent ranks as the 11th lowest percentage among 287 qualified batters. His OBP of .282 in 2018 was the 9th lowest among qualified batters. His career 86 wRC+ means he’s essentially Austin Slater (87 career wRC+) at the plate.

He’s a league average batter against LHP (100 wRC+) and he should see ample time against lefties for the Giants. In the early going, the Giants have looked all too susceptible to LHP. Pillar will give them something resembling a major-leaguer most days when a lefty takes the mound. I would anticipate that Duggar will remain in CF when he’s starting and Pillar, one would assume, will move into RF.

The Giants get an OBP-challenged player who, for a few seasons, looked like an elite defender in CF. In effect, the Giants picked up a player that will improve their team for practically nothing. Law and Hanson didn’t have much of a chance to play on this year’s team and both had already been designated for assignment. Juan De Paula — acquired in the Andrew McCutchen trade with New York last season — is a lottery ticket for Toronto, the traditional low-level arm with stuff.

Personally, I’ll be rooting for Law to make it back to the majors. He looked every bit the bullpen ace in 2016 when he threw 55 innings of 2.53 FIP (190 ERA+) baseball; however, since then, Law has struggled to a 4.58 FIP (74 ERA+) over 50.2 innings. He’s still just 28, so there’s time to get back on track, and I hope he does so.

Overall, this isn’t a bad move. It’s not a move that will get the Giants back into contention, but with the state of the outfield, it’s a move that had to be made. Pillar might tack on an additional win or two to the 2019 Giants season while making a few highlight grabs.