Giants don't tender Kevin Pillar a contract after one season with team

Giants don't tender Kevin Pillar a contract after one season with team

SAN FRANCISCO -- It didn't take long for Kevin Pillar to win over the fan base and his new clubhouse, but his run as a Giant is over after only one season.

The Giants non-tendered Pillar before Monday night's deadline, making him a free agent for the first time.

Pillar, acquired in the first week of the season from the Toronto Blue Jays, led the Giants in homers, RBI and stolen bases, but there were other issues in his statistical profile and the organization preferred to go with a younger group in the outfield.

Pillar was expected to make about $10 million in his final year of arbitration.

"It was a difficult decision. It was a baseball decision, not a financial decision," Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told NBC Sports Bay Area. "We want to make sure that we can provide the opportunity to some of our younger outfielders who have emerged over the last year."

That group includes Mike Yastrzemski, who tied Pillar for the team lead with 21 homers and could see plenty of time in center field next season, Austin Slater and Alex Dickerson, who reportedly agreed to a one-year deal Monday worth $925,000. Two young prospects, one acquired by Zaidi and one he inherited, also will receive a long look.

"Jaylin Davis got a little bit of big league time, and we want to make sure he gets an opportunity," Zaidi said. "Steven Duggar is coming off an injury, and we're expecting him to be 100 percent coming into camp. I would still expect us to add to that picture by looking at free agents and trades.

"The versatility of a couple of those guys to play center field may give us an opportunity to add an impact bat in one of the corner spots, which is something we've talked about all offseason. We're looking for offensive production and a way to score more runs. We're going to have financial flexibility to explore those avenues in trades and free agency, but an equally important part of this is making sure we're creating an opportunity for some young players."

That group includes Davis, a 25-year-old who was acquired at the trade deadline and hit 35 homers in the minors last season, and Duggar, a 26-year-old who once looked like the organization's center fielder of the future before shoulder injuries stalled his progress. Yastrzemski appeared more than capable of handling center field when given limited opportunities last season, and the Giants also could go with a wild card who might be the most intriguing option of all.

When Mauricio Dubon was picked up from the Milwaukee Brewers before the trade deadline, team officials talked of him one day serving a super-utility role, similar to what Kiké Hernandez has done so successfully in Los Angeles. While Dubon currently looks slated for the starting job at second base, he will get work in center field during spring training.

At the start of last spring, Duggar was the only one in that group who was part of the organization. Zaidi added Pillar to the mix after he struggled in five games with the Blue Jays early in the year, and the veteran ended up being an integral piece for the Giants.

Pillar hit 21 homers and drove in 87 runs in 156 games, but there were underlying numbers that concerned the Giants as they looked toward the future. Pillar, who turns 31 in January, ranked second to last among qualified NL hitters with a .293 on-base percentage, walking just 18 times all season at a time when the Giants are preaching plate discipline throughout every level of the organization.

While he made plenty of highlight-reel grabs, Pillar was worth negative-5 Defensive Runs Saved per FanGraphs, ranking 12th out of 14 qualified NL center fielders in the SABR index used for Gold Glove awards.

[RELATED: Giants reportedly looking to hire Indians infield coach Correa]

Pillar seemed to know this fate might be coming at the end of the year, saying he didn't want to talk too much about the organization's future because he wasn't sure what the front office would decide.

There has not been much of a trade market for players in Pillar's situation, and the Giants' front office ultimately decided to make a decision that will be unpopular with much of the fan base and a clubhouse that gave the center fielder the Willie Mac Award. It's one they believe will set them up better for the future, including the 2020 season.

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.

One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.

The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.'s Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.

St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainwright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.

[RELATED: How Wheeler's reported $118M contract could affect MadBum]

While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority


MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.

The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.

The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.

Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.

But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.

Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.

[RELATED: Report: Giants targeted UGA's pitching coach for same role]

While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.

Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.