Giants

Kevin Pillar wins prestigious Willie Mac Award in first Giants season

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Kevin Pillar wins prestigious Willie Mac Award in first Giants season

SAN FRANCISCO -- Kevin Pillar started his year in Toronto. He'll end it by taking home the most prestigious award you can get as a San Francisco Giant. 

Pillar is the 2019 winner of the Willie Mac Award, given annually to the player deemed most inspirational by players, coaches and clubhouse support staff. In a year in which the Giants had plenty of worthy candidates, including fellow newcomer Stephen Vogt, Pillar stood out for his consistent hustle and dedication to stay in the lineup every day and put up team-leading numbers. 

"I didn't know Kevin before he got here, but I heard a lot of things about him, and it was all that was advertised," manager Bruce Bochy said after Thursday's game. "How he plays the game, how dependable he is, how durable he is. I just took it for granted he was fine every day and put his name in the lineup."

An offseason target for the Giants, Pillar was finally acquired on the season-opening road trip. He will play his 154th game Friday night, and the production has been there throughout. Pillar is tied for the team lead with 21 homers and leads the Giants in RBI (86), runs (81) and stolen bases (13). He has also provided his typical highlight-reel defense in center field. 

"He brings it every day. We've had some long days, extra innings, and he comes out the next day like it's a new day," Bochy said. "I'm sure he's feeling it, but you wouldn't know it. And the bat speed, that has not slowed down one bit. He has that point of contact you love. So, it's been a really, really good year for him."

[RELATED: Bochy won't close the door on possible managerial return]

Pillar is under team control for one more season, but it's not a lock that the Giants will tender him a contract. He is entering his final year of arbitration, but the production has been there, and Friday's announcement was further confirmation of what he has meant to a team that's getting younger. 

"That's a guy everyone in this locker room should aspire to be like," fellow outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said. "That's one of the biggest things I've taken from this year, seeing the process of guys who have lasted as long as they have. He hasn't just done it this year. He's played that amount of games throughout his career. He never takes a day off, never asks for one, never wants one."

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.

MLB.com'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

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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.