How Kevin Pillar can really leave his mark as a Red Sox


This is what it has come to.

Normally the day after the Red Sox' 10th straight loss in the Bronx there is enough venom and analysis for days. But after a 4-2 defeat to the Yankees Sunday night, making it seven straight losses for Ron Roenicke's team, nobody seemed even inclined to break out the sad trombone. (For a complete box score, click here.)

Team meetings. New starters. Lineup shuffling. It has become white noise to many. Carrying a 6-16 record will do that.

The explanation and analysis for these games have become so exhausting it doesn't even seem worth divvying up the blame pie. This time it wasn't necessarily the fault of a pitching staff that broke its streak of six straight games giving up eight runs or more. (Ryan Weber has now given up one run in nine innings since his return!) There weren't enough hits. Whatever. Remember those games a few weeks back of micromanaging Roenicke's every move? Those were the days.

What we're left with is trying to guess how Chaim Bloom is going to put these puzzle pieces together so it can feel like competitive baseball again.

With that in mind, after Sunday night it seems like one of the more interesting conversations involves, believe it or not, Kevin Pillar.

Kevin Pillar talks Red Sox team meeting ...

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) August 17, 2020

Pillar is one of a bunch of Red Sox who are going to be eligible for free agency after this season, having signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal in February. The idea was that he would represent insurance for Alex Verdugo, who was coming off a stress fracture in his back, while potentially giving Jackie Bradley Jr. a breather in center field against tough lefties.

Now Pillar has become one of the Red Sox' most important players.

Sure, some of it has to do with him helping keep the Sox' uneasy offense afloat, suddenly serving as the team's more viable leadoff man. Against the Yankees Sunday, he walked to lead off the game and then homered in his next at-bat. By the time it was all said and done, Pillar headed into Monday with a .313 batting average and .860 OPS.

He also is heading into the last two weeks of the month as potentially a key chip for Bloom prior to the Aug. 31 trade deadline. And these days, that sort of thing takes priority.

This isn't to say the Red Sox will be getting back their ace-in-waiting for the 31-year-old. But Pillar's month could very well turn into a memorable existence simply because of the player he brought back for the coming years. Right now, he is no-doubt-about-it of enough value that teams should be willing to trade something of reasonable worth for the outfielder.

His outfield defense seems as good as ever, with his jumps on the ball (according to Statcast) actually having improved. He is durable. (Did anyone notice Pillar played 161 games last season?) And, most importantly, unlike many of the Red Sox hitters, he hasn't let this new world of 2020 baseball get in his head. He is just a good guy to have around.

Now, this isn't to say there isn't a question Pillar will fetch the kind of commodity that will lead to a lot of atta-boys for Bloom. The deadline is still very unpredictable, with teams potentially scared off from taking too many chances due to the continued uncertainty of the season. But as Red Sox president Sam Kennedy pointed out on WEEI last week, they sure are going to try.

Perhaps the Red Sox can get more for starting pitcher Martin Perez if he continues to go down his current road. And if there are some guarantees regarding J.D. Martinez not opting-out, he could be the most valuable player when it comes to getting back a significant return. But the others? Jose Peraza and Jackie Bradley Jr. are heading toward September with subpar offensive seasons. And Mitch Moreland's knee would seem to make the first baseman a risk for a potentially interested team.

For now, Pillar is living life as a Red Sox. We might look back and barely remember this month-or-so of his existence in the uniform. But what we should understand is the impact he could actually make for years to come because of a brief swing through Boston.