The competition for playing time in left field just got a little deeper as the Braves signed OF Kevin Pillar to a minor league contact that could net the 34-year-old veteran $3 million if he makes the big-league roster.
Pillar confirmed the deal in a tweet on Friday morning and stated that the was “beyond excited” to be joining the Braves.
Only appearing in four games for the Dodgers last season, the West Hills, CA native missed a portion of the year with a fractured shoulder. After having what was thought to be season-ending surgery, his recovery progressed faster than expected and he returned to the field a several weeks later. During his rehab stint with Triple-A Oklahoma City, he batted .315 with 10 homeruns and 40 RBIs.
Fans might remember the oft-injured Pillar from an incident in May 2021 involving the Braves. A member of the Mets that season, Pillar was struck directly in the face by a 94 mph fastball from former Braves reliever Jacob Webb which resulted in multiple nasal fractures. After surgery to repair the damage, he returned to the field two weeks later and appeared in 124 games that season. He finished the year hitting .231 with 15 homeruns and 47 RBIs.
His most productive season came in 2019 as a member of the San Francisco Giants. After being traded to the Bay Area from the Toronto Blue Jays, where he spent the first seven years of his career, Pillar played in 161 games and finished with 21 homers, 88 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a .259 average. He led the Giants (or tied for the team lead) in runs, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases.
While Michael Harris II is slated to patrol center field and Ronald Acuna Jr. will hold down right field this season, the team is going into the spring with a question mark in left field as Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario are both coming off disappointing seasons. Pillar will join a group of newcomers vying for the starting job or significant playing time.
In addition to Pillar, the Braves added OF Sam Hillard via a trade with the Rockies, signed free agent OF Jordan Luplow and acquired OF Eli White from the Rangers.