TORONTO — The Blue Jays pulled off their second significant trade in less than a week by sending outfielder Kevin Pillar to the Giants for infielder Alen Hanson, reliever Derek Law and prospect Juan De Paula on Tuesday morning.
Toronto primarily made the move to clear room in the outfield for its younger players. Randal Grichuk likely will assume the bulk of the workload in centre field, while Teoscar Hernandez and Billy McKinney are options for the corners, along with the club’s No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Anthony Alford.
The Blue Jays intend to use this season to evaluate their young core, and trading away Pillar was one way to make that happen. Toronto should be expected to rotate all four players through the outfield, and with an open designated hitter spot — following the recent trade of Kendrys Morales — there will be a lot of playing time to go around.
In return for Pillar, Toronto received De Paula, Law and Hanson. De Paula was ranked as the No. 19 prospect in the Giants’ system by MLB Pipeline and reportedly sits 92-97 mph with his fastball, but reportedly still lacks consistency with his offspeed pitches. In 11 appearances last season at Class A ball, including 10 starts, De Paula went 2-3 with a 1.72 ERA.
Hanson is a 26-year-old super-utility player who has played six different positions during parts of three seasons in the Majors. The Dominican Republic native is a career .238/.269/.384 hitter in 243 games with the Pirates, White Sox and Giants. Law has made 109 career appearances out of the bullpen, and his best year came in 2016 when he posted a 2.13 ERA over 55 innings, but he’s experienced issues in each of the last two seasons.
Pillar was the longest-tenured Blue Jays player and one of the only remaining pieces from the team that made back-to-back appearances in the American League Championship Series in 2015-16. He quickly became a fan favourite in Toronto and earned the nickname “Superman” for his fearless approach in the outfield, which often involved crashing into walls and putting his body on the line by sprawling out on the Rogers Centre turf.
At the plate, Pillar never developed quite as expected. His tendency to be a free swinger never went away, which has left him with a career on-base percentage below .300. His best season came during Toronto’s run to the postseason in 2015 when he slashed .278/.314/.399 across 159 games. Despite all the wear and tear on his body, Pillar also proved to be extremely durable by appearing in at least 142 games in each of the last four seasons.
Teams typically don’t make significant moves once the season gets under way in April, but Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins has decided to buck that trend. On the eve of Opening Day, Atkins sent Morales to the Athletics to free up the DH spot. Six days later, Atkins was active again, this time by sending out one of the most popular players on his team to make way for more youth.