Colorado Rockies: The case for and against re-signing Kevin Pillar

Sep 21, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; Colorado Rockies center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) celebrates after hitting a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants in the third inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; Colorado Rockies center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) celebrates after hitting a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants in the third inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /
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Kevin Pillar of the Colorado Rockies
DENVER, CO – AUGUST 1: Kevin Pillar #11 of the Colorado Rockies bats during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field on September 1, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

I asked Chris Cotillo, who is the Red Sox beat writer for MassLive.com to give me his take on Pillar during his days with Boston and what he took away from Pillar’s presence on the team.

"“He definitely emerged as a leader and was well-respected in the clubhouse,” Cotillo told me. “I was surprised at how quickly that happened. He’s an extremely confident guy and commands respect. “Defensively, he put his body on the line at least once a game and the Sox didn’t feel he had fallen off as much as metrics might have said. Overall, a really good stint.”"

Cotillo’s line about Pillar being a leader is seemingly one of the reasons why the Rockies wanted to bring him in at the trade deadline.

"“I’ve always thought of him as a gamer and a grinder,” Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich said shortly after the Pillar deal was announced. “And I think that will be a great fit for our club.”"

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While we didn’t have access to the clubhouse in 2020 during the pandemic, there was a sense that something was needed in the Colorado dugout and behind the scenes to inject some energy into a club that was struggling midway through the 60-game slog. With Nolan Arenado hindered by a shoulder injury, Charlie Blackmon coming back to earth after a historic start to the campaign, and young players such as Ryan McMahon and Sam Hilliard not fulfilling their expected roles, there was plenty to worry about on the offensive side of the game. Pillar’s presence was seemingly welcomed.

"“He plays a really good center field. He’s an aggressive, hard-nosed player. He’s a leader. He’s a — I know it’s used a lot — but now he’s a gamer,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “That, I think we need right now.”"

Do the Rockies need a leader in 2021? There is a good chance that next season could be a recipe for tension, knowing the team will be under pressure to perform with Arenado and Trevor Story’s contracts in flux at the end of the campaign. There will also likely be plenty of turnover in the clubhouse before the season begins as well. Will Ian Desmond return? Will the Rockies bring back Matt Kemp if Desmond does?

Desmond’s return and the health of David Dahl (after undergoing shoulder surgery this week) at the start of next season could be two of the more interesting components of Pillar coming back. If Desmond returns, the Rockies have another outfielder who brings a veteran voice. If Dahl returns, will he be able to shape back into All-Star form and, perhaps a bigger question, stay healthy for an entire season?

Should Desmond decide to step away from the game and/or there is any question about Dahl’s return, Pillar coming back to the Rockies makes sense on both levels. Pillar’s presence off the field could be just as important to this team as what he does in the lineup, especially if the schedule returns to 162 games in 2021.

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