Kevin Pillar should be a primary free agent target for the Cubs this offseason.
If you haven’t been living under a rock this past week, you probably heard about the Cubs non-tendering Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora. As of today, the only two outfielders on the 40-man roster are Ian Happ and Jason Heyward. The lack of depth leaves the Cubs looking to add more outfielders in the upcoming weeks, and one name they should pursue is Kevin Pillar.
I’ve wanted the Cubs to go after Pillar since last season’s trade deadline. Instead, it was the Rockies who acquired Pillar from the Red Sox in exchange for cash and a minor league pitcher named Jacob Wallace, who isn’t even on the MLB top 100 prospect list. Now’s the chance for the Cubs to redeem themselves and acquire the proven outfielder.
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The 31-year-old Pillar slashed .288/.336/.462 with a .798 OPS this past season in 54 games split betweeen Boston and Colorado. These are far from Mike Trout-type statistics, but Pillar is a cheap and viable option for the Cubs. The center fielder has been one of the best defenders since 2015 (career: +56 Defensive Runs Saved) and creates havoc on the bases. If Pillar comes to the North Side, he could take over in center field, moving Happ to left while Heyward stays in right. In my opinion, this would make for one of the best defensive outfields in the entire league.
Given the recent moves to save some salary, it appears as if the Cubs will be frugal with their budget for this upcoming season. If this is truly the case, a Pillar signing makes even more sense.
As we know, the current state of the world is full of uncertainty thanks to the global pandemic. Major League Baseball is no exception to this, leaving teams in the dark when it comes to a start date, fans (real human beings) in attendance, total number of games played, and a designated hitter in the National League. These are some of the factors that already affected the offseason market, as we’ve seen a record number of players non-tendered prior to last week’s deadline.
Pillar made $4.25 million on a one-year contract last season and will likely see a similar deal in 2021. If the Cubs were to sign Pillar to this type of contract, it would amount to about half the total (~$10 million) of what Schwarber and Almora would have made this upcoming season.
Even if the Ricketts family and Jed Hoyer are budgeting like they’re looking for spare change in their couch cushions these days, I think it would be a huge mistake to pass on a player like Pillar as an outfield replacement.
The MLB offseason will continue to move slower than usual, so we’ll likely have to wait a few more weeks before we know if the Cubs plan on going into full rebuild mode or not. Regardless, unless the team plans on heading into the 2021 season with two outfielders on the active roster, they’ll need additions at some point.