- Tim Burke
Red Sox Sign Kevin Pillar
The first move Chaim Bloom made with the Red Sox new payroll flexibility is.... signing veteran outfielder, Kevin Pillar to a one year deal worth four million, half his market value. The Red Sox 2020 outfield is expected to have three lefty starters in Benintendi, Bradley Jr and Verdugo. A right handed bat to compliment the three lefty outfielders was needed.
Kevin Pillar is mostly known for being a great defender. Over his six year big league career, Pillar has a .990 fielding percentage and 60 defensive runs saved. As the chart below shows he makes plenty of great catches. The ones in the green area being the most difficult to make.
Kevin Pillar is coming off a career high in home runs. It was surprising the Giants non tendered him earlier this offseason but similar to our own Jackie Bradley Jr. Kevin Pillar struggles at the plate. Pillar ranked 132nd out of 135 qualified hitters with a .287 On Base Percentage. Yes, that is terrible but this signing actually gives the Red Sox an opportunity to increase their center field production. Jackie Bradley Jr. is an amazing center fielder but at the plate he struggles, after all hit .225 batting average last season. His struggles with left handed pitching is a major factor as to why he is a below average hitter. Bradley's .199 batting average .601 OPS against left handers over the past two seasons is abysmal but against right handed pitching, he gives the Red Sox league average production at the plate. Kevin Pillar is not a better hitter than JBJ but he hits left handers significantly better. Over the past three seasons, Pillar has hit .282 with an .815 OPS against left handed pitching. The Red Sox can get more production out of the center field position if they platoon Bradley Jr. and Pillar
Another positive to this signing is how well Pillar has hit at Fenway Park. He has gone 55-179 for a .307 batting average at Fenway Park. The sample size is small but this chart shows Kevin Pillar may be able to hit a little better at Fenway.
Pillar's hit chart gives reason to believe the Green Monster will be his best friend. If he can put together a solid offensive season maybe he will comeback to the Red Sox full time center fielder at a cheaper cost than JBJ, who will hit Free Agency after this season. In the short term, the Red Sox are gaining a lot lineup flexibility with their deep talent and versatile players. Chaim Bloom appears to be focused on adding depth in Boston.