It has been about a week since one of Toronto’s most beloved players, Kevin Pillar, was traded from the Blue Jays to the San Francisco Giants.
What have we learned? For most Jays fans, Kevin Pillar was virtually an unknown and was not known as a top prospect or someone that would ever make the big leagues. But, in a few short years he became a fan favourite for many Blue Jays fans. Kevin was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 32nd round (979th overall).
He fought the odds and eventually made the majors and, in a few short years in the minors, he was hitting above .300 with some defensive upside. Not every part of his game translated to the MLB. His average started to slip and he has never been a great hitter,. His highest average was .266 and has fallen every year since that career best. For some reason, he never got on track hitting major league pitching.
In a small sample size with the Giants he is only hitting .222 and has a .245 OBP which is not what I think the Giants thought they would be getting in return. I know you can’t look at the first month of the season and expect a player to stay that way, but Pillar does not have a history of getting better as the season goes on. So, in this case, it seems as if the Jays made a great choice in moving an outfielder that was not in the plans and clearly not an overall great hitter. That, in my books, is a success even if the players that come back don’t end up being all-stars.
However, I don’t need to tell Toronto fans why Pillar was so beloved over the past 6 or so seasons. No one will remember him for a single hit as a Blue Jay, but they will remember him reaching over the left field wall to steal a sure home run away or sprinting across the field and making a magnificent diving catch. Every Jays fan will have a memory of a catch he has made, and most can say they were on hand to see them happen. It does have to be said that in order to make many of those outstanding catches he seemed to be out of position and lucky to catch the ball at all. If you look at the premier outfielders in the league; very rarely are they are sprinting for balls. They are much better at reading the ball, knowing the ball and have a pretty good idea of where the ball will go before the player even hits it. That is why Pillar can makes so many made for TV catches; a lot of times he is making up for being out of position.
Pillar was a great Blue Jay and will always be a fan favourite – but it was time to move on. The Blue Jays did not honour the loyalty card and give him a new deal, instead they moved him to the San Francisco Giants who had great interest in the centre fielder for sometime. The Jays picked up more pieces to help in the future and did not keep Pillar just to fill the seats. However, I believe it is one of the smart choices management has made for a fan favourite player, as they did not allow another Bautista or Donaldson situation to occur and got a decent package (even if it wasn’t exactly what they wanted) for a player that would not be in the plans over the next 5 seasons.
Overall, Kevin Pillar was and always will be a Blue Jay and will always be a fan favourite for how he handled himself on and off the field. I, along with majority of Toronto, wish him well with the Giants and I believe many will be on hand to see his return to Toronto next week which will probably be the last time he is the reason people fill the seats to watch him at Rogers Centre.
***Amanda Pillar, wife of Kevin, will join Barry and Matt on this week’s Outta The Park. Look out for it, this Sunday, at Noon.