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Henry Schulman breaks down why Giants let Kevin Pillar walk

Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Pillar is free, as is the wrath directed at the Giants’ front office.

The unpopular move of non-tendering the popular center fielder on Monday has fans angry, with the 2019 Willie Mac Award winner now a free agent and the Giants looking at an outfield that likely will see Mike Yastrzemski playing a lot of center.

Pillar, the player, is polarizing, a free-swinging slugger who hit 21 home runs but posted just a .293 on-base percentage last year, while playing defense that looked better than the analytics gave him credit for.

“This is a front office that does look at analytics — and all the teams now look at stats vs. dollars,” the Chronicle’s Henry Schulman said on “Murph & Mac” on KNBR on Tuesday. “I’m not a huge believer in WAR, but it is a factor in how front offices think. Wins right now are judged to be worth about $5 million. That’s kind of generally how it goes. Here’s a one-win player from last year who’s now going to make $10 million.”

In arbitration, it would have been a one-year deal for about $9.7 million that the Giants were not interested in. Instead, they will give more at-bats to younger players and will be in the market for a corner-outfield bat. Schulman listed Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, Steven Duggar and Austin Slater as guys who will receive more time without Pillar around.

The 30-year-old played 156 of a possible 157 games with the Giants following his trade from the Blue Jays, always eager and ready to play.

“You look around the room, people look up to a player like that,” Schulman said. “That’s why he won the Willie Mac Award. You’re going to go out there in pain. There’s always going to be something hurting, and center field is a very demanding position. He lays out a lot — it hurts to lay out like he does. That’s what you’re losing a little bit of.”

Schulman said he got the feeling a trade market for Pillar — if they brought him back at around $10 million — would have been less than many fans expected. After all, they couldn’t flip him for anything before the non-tender deadline.

So the Giants will look for a corner outfielder, but the big splashes are probably set for next offseason.

“I think they’re a year away,” Schulman said. “I think we’re going to see Joey Bart come up and maybe establish himself this year. It’s possible that Heliot Ramos, he could move a little quickly. They really like the chances of Hunter Bishop moving up really quickly. When you get to that level and you’re thinking we really have a shot to win the division, that’s when you go out and you get that older, experienced player and bring them in as sort of the icing on the cake.”


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