Braves, Kevin Pillar Agree To Minor League Deal

The Braves and outfielder Kevin Pillar are in agreement on a minor league deal, reports MLBTR’s Steve Adams. Pillar will make a $3MM salary if he cracks the club’s roster. He’s a client of All Bases Covered Sports Management.

Pillar, 34, was selected by the Blue Jays in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft. He worked his way up to the majors by 2013 and took over an everyday job in 2015, which he held with the Jays through 2018. Over those four seasons, Pillar got into 601 games and hit .263/.301/.401. That production was 12% below league average by measure of wRC+, but Pillar was able to provide value with his speed and defense. He stole 68 bases in that period while producing 57 Defensive Runs Saved and got a 29.4 grade from Ultimate Zone Rating.

The Jays went into a rebuild in the latter parts of that timeframe and they flipped Pillar to the Giants in April of 2019. That began the journeyman phase of Pillar’s career, as he’s suited up for the Giants, Red Sox, Rockies, Mets and Dodgers over the past few campaigns. He’s continued to hit at a similar rate but his work in the field has naturally slipped as he’s gotten deeper into his 30s.

The most significant variant for Pillar this year will likely be his health. He signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers last year and posted a huge .315/.412/.622 batting line in 36 Triple-A games. That production led to a 150 wRC+, indicating he was 50% above league average. He got selected to the big league team in May but was placed on the injured list after appearing in just four games due to a left shoulder fracture. That injury required surgery which was initially reported as “season-ending,” though Pillar did attempt a late-season comeback by starting a rehab assignment in September. There wasn’t quite enough runway for Pillar to return, however, and his season was limited to just those four contests.

For the Braves, two of their outfield jobs are spoken for by Ronald Acuña Jr. and Michael Harris II. The left field position is less settled, with various in-house options. Eddie Rosario. Marcell Ozuna, Sam Hilliard, Eli White and Jordan Luplow will likely be battling each other for either full- or part-time work with the big league club. If Pillar is healthy and looks good in spring or as the season gets going, he could work his way into the mix if an opportunity presents itself.

Pillar’s $3MM salary is larger than most players on minor league deals normally secure, which is somewhat noteworthy for a club that’s slated to go into luxury tax territory for the first time. Roster Resource currently pegs their competitive balance tax figure at $241MM, beyond the $233MM base threshold. Assuming they don’t find a way to shed some salary and dip back beneath the line, they’re lined up to pay a 20% tax on all spending that goes over the boundary, which would include Pillar’s salary if he makes the team.

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