What will Giants do with Kevin Pillar, other arbitration-eligible players?


SAN FRANCISCO -- When he took the Giants' job last November, Farhan Zaidi's first opportunity to shape the roster came with his arbitration-eligible veterans. He decided to keep Joe Panik, Will Smith and Sam Dyson, while non-tendering Hunter Strickland and Gorkys Hernandez. 

The Giants had no regrets there. Strickland got hurt in Seattle and traded to the Nationals, and he was easily replaced by the much cheaper Trevor Gott. Hernandez spent five months in Triple-A with the Red Sox and the Giants went out and eventually filled that hole with Kevin Pillar.

Pillar is one of six arbitration-eligible veterans this offseason, and he's the most fascinating case. The 30-year-old hit 21 homers, proved to be a rare Giant who can flash power at Oracle Park and made plenty of eye-popping plays in center. But there's still a little doubt about his immediate future. 

MLB Trade Rumors projects arbitration salaries every year and tends to be extremely accurate. Here are the players the Giants need to make decisions on, starting with Pillar, a Willie Mac Award winner who is starting to get expensive:

Kevin Pillar -- projected to earn $9.7 million 

During the last week of the season, Pillar was asked about the young players Zaidi had added to the roster.

"Obviously I'd love to comment on that because I'd like to think I'm back here, but until I get tendered a contract, my future is kind of up in the air," he said. 

On one hand, this seems like a no-brainer. With Steven Duggar coming off another shoulder injury and Heliot Ramos just settling in at Double-A, the Giants don't have another answer in center. Pillar hit 11 homers at Oracle Park, was extremely popular in the clubhouse, and took the field every single day regardless of the team's situation or his own bumps and bruises. Bruce Bochy gushed about Pillar's endurance, and a new manager will appreciate that, too. 

So why is there any doubt? Pillar drove in runs and scored them, but he had a .287 on-base percentage and was 15 points below league average by wRC+. 

"I do get how important the on-base percentage is and it's an area I need to improve on," he said. "But for as long as this game has been played, scoring runs and driving in runs, the last time I checked, is how you win games."

This will be a fascinating test for the new front office, which is more analytically-inclined than the previous one. Which set of stats do they trust? Do they believe in the eye test in center field, or the defensive metrics that put Pillar more around the league average? 

The guess here is that a deal gets done, although likely at a figure below $9.7 million. The Giants also could try to lock Pillar into a cheaper two-year deal which would allow him to avoid a market that has been cruel to veteran hitters in recent years. 

Kyle Barraclough -- $2.1 million 

The right-hander was happy to be back home and the Giants put him in some high-leverage situations to see if his old form would return. Barraclough was charged with two earned runs in eight innings and still has good stuff, but he walked nine batters and put Bochy in some tough spots. Barraclough is the kind of pitcher Zaidi will want in camp, but it's hard to see it at that price. 

Donovan Solano -- $1.2 million

Did you know he had a 117 OPS+ as a Giant and hit .402 on the road? The veteran, who was with the Dodgers when Zaidi was there, had a sneaky-good season. Solano lost playing time to Mauricio Dubon down the stretch, but this should be an easy decision. With Brandon Crawford coming off a down year and some concern about Dubon's ability to hold up over a full season, Solano should be back. 

Alex Dickerson -- $1.2 million

The man who briefly saved the season and inspired "Dick!" chants couldn't stay healthy in the second half. Dickerson ended up with a .880 OPS with the Giants but it was just .724 after the All-Star break, with two homers in 108 at-bats. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about his health, but Dickerson was a game-changer when he was right, and the Giants don't have a lot of options for the heart of their order. He should be back. Even 300 at-bats would be well worth it at that price. 

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Joey Rickard -- $1.1 million 

He did a relatively nice job against lefties and Bochy liked the way he defended and played the game, but that's kind of a pricey projection for a backup outfielder who isn't in the Opening Day plans. The Giants brought in guys like Henry Ramos and Anthony Garcia last spring and they're likely to go that path again in search of outfield depth at Triple-A. 

Wandy Peralta -- $800,000

He flashed good stuff in eight appearances with the Giants and they don't have a lot of bullpen options. You won't be limited elsewhere by giving a veteran reliever $800,000, although Zaidi may prefer to keep that roster spot open. 

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