The Giants’ outfield picture is about to get a lot clearer.
By 5 p.m. Monday, San Francisco has to officially decide whether to tender Kevin Pillar a contract for 2020. The 30-year-old center fielder, entering his final year of arbitration, is expected to command about $9.7 million. If the Giants do not offer Pillar a contract, he would become a free agent.
They also could trade him, negotiate a lesser deal or extend him to a multiyear deal, likely at a lesser per-year value. But the odds are they will extend the marriage that began April 2, when the Giants traded for the Blue Jays veteran to hold down the middle of the outfield.
His 2019 season saw him become a fan favorite, a Willie Mac Award winner whose spectacular plays warmed him to the crowds and the pitchers on the mound. But as likable as he was off the field, his play is just as polarizing on it, an eye-test wonder who posted a negative Defensive Runs Saved, and a swing-away slugger who makes lots of contact but doesn’t work the count like a true Farhan Zaidi-ite.
In 156 games and 628 plate appearances with San Francisco, Pillar walked just 18 times. His 21 home runs tied him for the team lead — he owned just about every team lead — en route to slashing .264/.293/.442.
“I like this organization. I love being on the West Coast, being a West Coast kid, being born in the state of California,” Pillar, from Southern California, said in late September. “It’s been a great location for me to set up shop, get to see my family a lot more. Obviously, this organization has a history of winning and a recent history of winning. I know it’s been a couple down years for this organization, and I know that’s not what they’re about.
“I don’t have a choice. I’m still here, I’m still under control for another season. But yeah, I want to be back here. My family’s happy here, I’m happy here. Getting to know Farhan a little bit, I think he’s got a good plan of attack to get this organization back to where it belongs.”
Helping Pillar’s case is the dearth of center fielders on the market. If he is not retained, the Giants would be looking at a field that includes Jarrod Dyson, Brett Gardner, Juan Lagares and Japan’s Shogo Akiyama. Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte reportedly is being shopped. It’s unlikely the Giants would let go of Pillar without a Plan B at the ready.
Pillar is the most notable, but the Giants must formally decide whether to tender contracts to Donovan Solano, Alex Dickerson, Joey Rickard, Tyler Anderson and Wandy Peralta. Rickard (expected to make about $1.1 million) and Peralta ($800,000) are also on the bubble.