The Rockies are acquiring Kevin Pillar and cash from the Red Sox in exchange for a PTBNL and 2019-20 international slot money, per source.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) August 31, 2020
Now, you may be thinking, “Rockies plus Szymborski means the latter is mad about something!” While you’d frequently be accurate, it’s not so in this case. Short of someone mind-blowing like Brendan Rodgers being the player to be named later — Brendan Rodgers will not be the player to be named later — this is a perfectly reasonable upgrade to the roster that is unlikely to cost the team much. Outfield defense has always been one of those awkward problems for a team in Colorado, thanks to the phenomenon, unusual in most locales, of having a massive home run park that also has a gargantuan outfield. Glove-only players tend to not get the same offensive advantages in Coors and the amount of outfield real estate makes it dangerous to have a marginally defensive center fielder man the position, as the team discovered with Charlie Blackmon.
Kevin Pillar had a solid little run with the Blue Jays as a glove wizard who could hit the occasional homer. He’s in his 30s now and there has been some decline, especially defensively, but if push comes to shove, I think he’d be a better defender in center than most of the Rockies’ options. David Dahl, the normal center fielder in 2020, has been out with back issues and I feel that Pillar’s still likely to be better defensively than either Garrett Hampson or Sam Hilliard. With Dahl’s injury history and the Rockies still hovering around .500, a coin-flip to make the playoffs, I think this kind of move — one that doesn’t hamstring future moves — is a good transaction to make.
Pillar hits the ball hard enough that there’s probably some decent offensive upside in Coors as well. He’s hit .274/.325/.470 in 2020 and thanks to Alex Verdugo playing left after Andrew Benintendi‘s injury, he’s spent a lot of time in the thankless, awkward task of playing Mookie Betts‘ position in right. Pillar is a free agent after the 2020 season and the Red Sox are at the bottom of the American League, so there was no real reason for the team not to make a trade rather than let him walk for nothing after the season.
The Colorado Rockies have a lot of work to do to right an organization that’s largely pointed in the wrong direction. But picking up Kevin Pillar doesn’t make it any more difficult for the team to (theoretically) do these things in the offseason and gives them a marginally increased chance of making the playoffs this year. A good pickup, so I’ll holster my snark for the moment.
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