Dodgers sign veteran outfielder Kevin Pillar to minor league contract
Usually, late March is when major league teams begin trimming down their spring training rosters.
On Tuesday, the Dodgers instead added another veteran to an already crowded clubhouse.
In their continued efforts to build depth ahead of the delayed and condensed 2022 season, the team announced it signed outfielder Kevin Pillar to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. If Pillar makes the big league roster, he will reportedly earn $2.5 million this season.
Pillar, 33, is a nine-year veteran who has bounced around in recent years, playing with five different clubs over the past three seasons. In 124 games with the New York Mets last season, he suffered one of his worst campaigns, batting .231 with 15 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .692 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Following the season, Pillar declined a $2.9-million player option with the Mets, opting instead to become a free agent for the third straight offseason. And after waiting this winter for his next opportunity, he saw the Dodgers as a place to potentially revitalize his career.
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“I felt like it was in my best interest for the longevity of my career to maybe take a step back, to take a couple of steps forward,” Pillar said standing in front of his new locker Tuesday. “This organization has done a really, really good job of taking players that maybe have underperformed or underachieved, or maybe some guys that were fairly unknown and turned them into some really good baseball players.
“For me, I want to leave no stone unturned. I still believe that I can be a much better baseball player than I am right now. And this is probably the best place for me to try to figure that out. . . . I’m betting on myself to be able to play this game at a high level for a couple more years. Even if that means I got to take a step back this year.”
A West Hills native and Cal State Dominguez Hills product who grew up a Dodgers fan, Pillar was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 32nd round in 2011 before making his big league debut two years later.
He spent the next six seasons with the Blue Jays before being traded days into the 2019 campaign to the San Francisco Giants, going on to have one of his best seasons by batting .264 with 21 home runs and 87 RBIs.
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Pillar had solid numbers again the next year, batting a combined .288 with a .798 OPS with the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies (who acquired him at the trade deadline). But he struggled in 2021 after inking a one-year, $5-million deal with the Mets.
With the Dodgers, Pillar is one of seven veteran bats with multiple seasons of MLB experience — a point of emphasis for the team after injuries and inconsistency ravaged their bench a season ago.
Pillar hopes it can be a mutually beneficial match, too, one he believes can help rebuild his value and extend his career.
“Hopefully I can play a couple more years as opposed to just surviving another year,” he said. “I hope to go out there and thrive and turn this opportunity, being very wanted this time next year.”
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