Recent comments from Toronto Blue Jays GM, Ross Atkins, give reason to wonder about the future of Kevin Pillar
Compared to last offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays are behind schedule in their Hot Stove activities. Of course, that really doesn’t mean anything. This offseason is developing slower than the previous, but that doesn’t mean that this front office is doing more, or less, than they did a year ago. There are very clear needs to address and you can bet that groundwork has been laid, to use a familiar phrase.
Recently, Ross Atkins appeared on Sportsnet’s At the Letters podcast and spoke about the work he has to do this winter. He covered the obvious: the middle infield and the need for pitching, whether it is for the rotation or the bullpen. But, there was another area that he spoke on that was noteworthy. In fact, it was more than that; it was rather telling. Atkins spoke about the outfield situation and dropped this gem:
Much has been written about the possibility of trading Kevin Pillar already. BP Toronto has said it is time to trade him. It is also something we discussed on the most recent Jays From the Couch Radio Live & Interactive. It makes sense. Pillar was nominated for a Gold Glove this past season. His defense is well documented. He’s put up 10.2 fWAR over the last four seasons. The problem is that after a 4.3 fWAR season in 2015, Pillar has seen his performance drop off…on both sides of the ball. Never one to walk often, his OBP reached .300 last year, which contributed to a wRC+ of 85. Jose Bautista put up 80 and everyone has been screaming about him being done as a player. Pillar barely bests this mark. So, perhaps, now is the best time to look for an outfield upgrade.
If we were to read into Atkins’ comments, it would appear he agrees. When talking about the outfield, he completely left out Pillar’s name. This could be dismissed as an oversight, but Atkins hardly strikes us as a guy who doesn’t think about what he says carefully. Omitting his name is not the only reason to think Pillar’s time in Toronto is limited. Wanting to compliment outfield pieces with more than a “player who had a good month or month and a half of major league performance” sure sounds like Atkins is specifically talking about Pillar.
One could argue that Pillar had little more than that month, month and a half last year. He put up a wRC+ of 123 (.844 OPS) in April, wRC+ of 94 (.726 OPS) in May and a wRC+ of 91 (.725 OPS) in August, which were his best months of play. June saw a wRC+ of just 53 and an OPS of .591. If you add it all up, this certainly sounds like a month, month and a half of major league performance.
So, the logical extension of this whole thing is that the Blue Jays are looking for an upgrade for CF and the rumours about their interest in Lorenzo Cain could have more substance than we thought, which is something that makes our Ryan Andrews very happy since he suggested the idea a while ago.
Btw, I see these #BlueJays writers coming out with these articles about how perfect Lorenzo Cain is for the team and I'm all "Pfft. Welcome to my level. I've been here since September." (Check out https://t.co/KHNMAGTmYf around 37:30. I make my @JaysFromCouch podcast spots count)
— Ryan Andrews 📎 (@NeoAC18) November 16, 2017
Cain would definitely represent an upgrade over Pillar. He’s put up nearly 18 fWAR over the last four seasons. Even if he declines with age, he would still be an excellent signing for the Blue Jays, as our Jeff Q explained HERE.
While Cain might be the most obvious choice if the Blue Jays are indeed looking to upgrade over Pillar, it isn’t as easy as all that. Firstly, the Blue Jays would need to find a partner interested in obtaining Pillar’s services. It is difficult to see him bringing much of a return on his own, so he would need to be packaged. But, he definitely could be the ‘big league piece’ in a potential deal. Then, of course, the challenge becomes getting Cain’s signature on the dotted line. Or, maybe there is another plan entirely.
Plans hardly ever go according to plan and a baseball offseason is no exception. For the Toronto Blue Jays, plans are likely piled on top of other plans, with backups for backups. But, from the sounds of things, the future of Kevin Pillar in Toronto seems questionable. That is not exactly what some folks want to hear. Superman has built himself quite the following in Blue Jays Land. But, you can bet that, if he is on the trade block and finds himself wearing another uniform, fans will wish him well while they cheer on his upgrade in the hopes of the plan paying off.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.