“Atkins and Shapiro are ruining this team!”
“How can you trade one of your best players in Pillar!?”
“They are reducing the team to dust. You need winners to win. We want the win THIS YEAR!!!”
“Annnnnnnd I’m boycotting baseball for a while. So annoyed.”
This is a small sample size of the type of uneducated garbage that littered social media comment boards yesterday morning when news broke that Kevin Pillar had been traded to the San Francisco Giants. The emotional outpouring at losing one of the biggest fan favourites in recent memory is completely understandable and even defensible; it’s the NOT understanding the reason WHY he was traded that is inexcusable.
For those who haven’t noticed, the Blue Jays are in a rebuild. The ownership and management have (finally) committed to a complete tear down, bare bones rebuild that should have been started at the immediate end of the 2016 ALCS. The willingness for the front office to pay for players to play for other teams should be an indication at how deep this rebuild is going to get.
The trades of Pillar and Kendrys Morales appear to be the mere tip of the proverbial iceberg. It should come as no surprise if/when the likes of Justin Smoak, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and even relievers Ryan Tepera and Ken Giles are dealt for younger, cheaper, and more controllable players. In fact, I would almost be willing to guarantee that both Stroman and Sanchez would have already been dealt if they had any real kind of trade value over the offseason.
Not only does moving these veteran assets bring back prospect capital for your farm system, but it also moves “roadblocks” from the paths of prospects who are ready to take the next step. By moving Pillar, the rebuilding Blue Jays can now give long time prospect Anthony Alford a legitimate look as an everyday outfielder. Despite a rash of injuries and a slower development (due to his attempt at continuing as a two sport athlete), Alford has earned his shot following a hot second half in AAA last year and a great showing during this year’s Spring Training.
While the memories of Pillars heroic defensive efforts will always remain, so will his struggles at the plate. A “speedy” player and base stealing “threat,” Pillar couldn’t draw a walk or get on base at a consistent enough clip to ever be seen as a top of the order type player. I know it hurts losing a guy who was passionate and played with no regard for his own safety. But we have to remember that he is on the wrong side of 30 and you have to wonder how many more years he has playing that grinder style at a high level.
The fact that the Jays were able to get three pieces – one that could actually help out following the rebuild – and not have to eat any of his contract for an all around average 30 year outfielder is an absolute win and the type of trade that real fans of the team should be excited about.