Sources: Giants interested in Kevin Pillar trade with Blue Jays

Sources: Giants interested in Kevin Pillar trade with Blue Jays

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants still do not consider themselves anywhere near the Bryce Harper chase. Over four days in Las Vegas, they added two outfielders to their 40-man roster, both of whom are just prospects potentially fighting for bench roles.

There’s a middle ground between Harper and the recent additions, though, and the Giants have been active in that market while exploring trades. One name discussed by the front office, according to multiple sources, was Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar, who is interesting for a number of reasons.

Pillar, 29, is a defense-first center fielder who would seem to be an odd fit at first since the Giants already have a young version of that profile in Steven Duggar. But Pillar is a right-handed hitter who always has hit lefties better, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi would like to find a platoon partner for left-handed-hitting Duggar, at least early in his career. 

Beyond that, the Giants are intrigued by the idea of occasionally playing two center fielders at the same time in their massive ballpark. Both prospects picked up this week — Mike Gerber and Drew Ferguson — can play center field, and Pillar is known as one of the top true center fielders in the game. In those discussions, the Giants imagined an alignment that occasionally could have Pillar in center and Duggar in right. 

[RELATED: Why Duggar wants to bring bunts back to life for Giants]

“Right field at our place is just as hard as playing center field,” one source said. 

It’s unclear if the Giants gained any traction in talks for outfielders this week. Zaidi believed he might have a couple of deals in place next week, although he could go in a number of directions as he looks to fill holes. 

Pillar has not been widely known to be available. Still, the Blue Jays are rebuilding in a tough division, with plenty of young talent on the way, and that’s the type of team the Giants have targeted at times. 

The Giants are not fully rebuilding on their own. They prefer to add minor pieces to the lineup and find platoon advantages, and Pillar — or someone similar — is the type of player who makes sense for a team that hopes to be somewhat competitive next season.

How Heliot Ramos compares to other Giants who dominated in San Jose

How Heliot Ramos compares to other Giants who dominated in San Jose

LOS ANGELES -- Heliot Ramos spent his Tuesday night about an hour away from Dodger Stadium. Ramos, the Giants' No. 2 prospect, started in center field in the California League All-Star Game, held at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino.

The road to the big leagues will be a significantly longer trip, but it definitely doesn't look the way it did before the season. While most in the organization still view Ramos as more of a 2021 option, he has accelerated the timeframe with a huge first half in San Jose. 

Asked about Ramos recently, manager Bruce Bochy pointed out that this organization has a history of fast-tracking top hitting prospects. 

"We've shown in the past that if guys are making progress -- you go back to Pablo and Buster -- we'll bring them up on a fast pace," Bochy said. 

Buster Posey played 80 games in San Jose in 2009 and made a September cameo that same season; he was a big league starter the next year. Pablo Sandoval played 102 games in San Jose in 2007 and 68 in 2008, the season he ended up in the big leagues. Brandon Belt is another example on the big league roster; he destroyed the California League for 77 games in 2010 and made the Opening Day roster the next spring. 

Ramos, still just 19, is a bit of a different case. Given his age and his ups-and-downs last season in Augusta, the Giants expected him to have a lengthy run in San Jose. He still might, but his first-half numbers compare favorably to others who were moved quickly. 

Ramos has a .389 on-base percentage and .553 slugging percentage in San Jose. Posey was at .428 and .540, Sandoval at .353 and .528, and Belt at .492 and .628 (he seriously destroyed that league, which is part of why expectations have always been so high). By wRC+, Ramos (161) fits right in line with what Posey (157) and Sandoval (163 in his second season there) did in San Jose. 

The 2017 first-rounder has eight homers in 37 games and has improved his plate discipline, nearly doubling his walk rate year-over-year and cutting his strikeout rate by a couple of percentage points. That was an early sign that Ramos was ready to break out

"That's really exciting and that's obviously a point that's been emphasized with him and is a point for us in player development overall," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said earlier this season. 

[RELATED: Watch Heliot Ramos hit two-run homer]

Zaidi has a desire to move top prospects quickly and challenge them, and while Ramos was slowed by a knee injury in May, he has joined Joey Bart as Giants minor leaguers who look ready to be pushed. 

"I thought once he got into the flow of professional ball he would get on a faster pace," Bochy said. "That's what's happening now. We got a chance to see him this spring and he's got some huge potential. With that bat speed, this kid can do some damage."

Shaun Anderson's first-inning problems are a head-scratcher for Giants

Shaun Anderson's first-inning problems are a head-scratcher for Giants

LOS ANGELES -- Giants rookie right-hander Shaun Anderson has a problem, but it isn't what you would expect. 

Anderson is a young starter who was a closer in college, so it wouldn't be a surprise or at all concerning if he had issues getting deep into games. The head-scratcher thus far, though, has been that Anderson is struggling mightily with the first inning. After that, he tends to cruise. 

Joc Pederson hit a leadoff homer on Tuesday night and the Dodgers followed with two more hits and another run, kicking off what would become a 9-0 win behind Clayton Kershaw. 

The homer was the second leadoff blast Anderson has allowed in seven starts and the fourth he has allowed in the first inning. Opponents are hitting .438 off him in the first with four homers, four doubles and seven runs. In all of his other innings, Anderson has allowed just one homer and posted a 2.56 ERA. 

"I do need to bear down a little in those first innings," Anderson said. "This isn't the first time it has happened. I'll look into it."

Anderson said it was simply a lack of execution to start, and manager Bruce Bochy wasn't all that concerned. There's a trend, and he said the Giants will discuss potential changes to Anderson's pre-start routine, but they won't make too big a deal of it. 

"You know what, the kid is throwing well," Bochy said. "So it's not like we want to do a lot."

Anderson is not alone in this issue. The Giants as a team have had serious first-inning woes all season long, but Anderson has shown an ability to get past any early wobbles. He pitched into the sixth Tuesday, allowing just one more run. 

The problem was that the Giants had no margin for error. Kershaw did what he always does to them, and while Anderson kept it close for a while, this one turned into a blowout in the seventh. Enrique Hernandez's grand slam off Trevor Gott capped a six-run inning. 

[RELATED: What can Giants get in MadBum trade? Kurkjian answers]

With the blowout, the Giants have now been outscored by 90 runs this season, the third-worst differential in the Majors and worst in the National League. Anderson might be having an issue with the first inning, but for the team, the problems go much deeper.