Boston Red Sox

Red Sox adding Kevin Pillar to outfield mix in wake of Betts trade

After trading Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox have added Kevin Pillar to their outfield mix.

In the trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox acquired young outfielder Alex Verdugo. But they’ve added another outfielder, with Alex Speier of the Boston Globe first to report they’ve signed Kevin Pillar to a one-year, $4 million deal.

Pillar spent last season with the Toronto Blue Jays (five games) and San Francisco Giants (156 games. He posted a .259/.287/.432 slash-line with a career-highs in home runs (21) and RBI (88), with a career-low walk rate (2.8 percent) to drive one of the worst on-base percentages among qualified hitters last year.

Pillar registered at roughly replacement level as a defensive outfielder last year (-3 Defensive Runs Saved, 0.3 UZR), as he continued to mostly play center field. Average performance defensively is a far cry from where he was at his peak with the Blue Jays, as he posted Defensive Runs Saved totals of 22, 21 and 15 from 2015-2017 and somehow never won a Gold Glove.

Pillar is probably best cast in a corner outfield spot at this point. Verdugo is in line to replace Betts in right field, but a back issue has his status for the start of the season is in doubt. Boston’s interest in Pillar predates the news of Verdugo’s injury surfacing, but now their interest in him is a little more explainable.

Jackie Bradley Jr. is lingering as a candidate to be traded, as he’s making $11 million this year before hitting free agency. If he is moved, Pillar could eventually take over in center field between Verdugo in right and Andrew Benintendi in left. Moving Benintendi to center could also be an option.

There’s no replacing Betts, who by many measures is literally the second-best player in baseball. But Pillar is a solid fit for the Red Sox, as a right-handed hitter who can play all three outfield spots, and perhaps most importantly for them he comes cheaply on a one-year deal.

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