Blue Jays trade Pillar to Giants, give Grichuk $52M deal
Toronto also acquired outfielder Socrates Brito from San Diego for Class A outfielder Rodrigo Orozco, then announced a $52 million, five-year agreement with Grichuk, an outfielder who had been eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.
“I love the city. I like the direction the team is going,” Grichuk said. “I see the vision. I see a lot of young, talented players that can be very impactful. They have a vision, and I want to be a part of it.”
Grichuk is a career .247 hitter with 92 home runs and 245 RBIs in 533 games with St. Louis and Toronto, but his on-base percentage is just .297.
“The offense has always stood out,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “He’s always performed. He’s always hit the ball hard. He’s always hit it far, and usually it goes over the fence at a pretty good rate. In our view, he’s been an above average defender, and those are hard things to piece together.”
Atkins said the timing of the Pillar and Grichuk moves were a “complete coincidence,” adding discussions with Grichuk began in spring training.
Pillar had been Toronto’s longest-tenured player, in his seventh season with the Blue Jays. Known for stellar defense in center field, the 30-year-old has a .260 average with 55 home runs and 231 RBIs in 695 games. Pillar has a $5.8 million salary, is eligible for arbitration next winter and can go free after the 2020 World Series.
“This was a deal that we felt made sense to gain (financial) control and create opportunities for others,” Atkins said, acknowledging it was a difficult decision to trade a clubhouse leader.
“I’m going to miss Kevin Pillar,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “What a great guy. What a good player. But now somebody else gets a chance.”
The Blue Jays promoted outfielder Anthony Alford from Triple-A Buffalo to replace Pillar. Alford started in center field Tuesday against Baltimore right-hander Andrew Cashner.
Grichuk had agreed in January to a $5 million, one-year contract. The new superseding deal includes a $5 million signing bonus payable in five equal installments on July 1 and Oct. 1 this year, April 1 and July 1 in 2020 and April 1, 2021. Grichuk gets salaries of $7 million this year, $12 million in 2020 and $9,333,333 in each of the final three seasons.
His 2023 salary would increase by $1 million if he has 1,200 plate appearances in the previous two seasons, and by another $500,000 each for 1,250 and 1,300.
Pillar is the second player traded by the Blue Jays in the past week. Toronto sent designated hitter Kendrys Morales to Oakland last Wednesday, agreeing to give the Athletics $11,445,000 to cover nearly all of Morales’ $12 million salary.
Pillar was emotional about leaving the only big league team he has ever known, fighting back tears as he addressed reporters.
“I got called up as a 24-year-old kid,” he said. “I’m leaving here as a 30-year-old man with a wife and a kid. Just a lifetime of memories.”
The Blue Jays selected Pillar in the 32nd round of the 2011 amateur draft, giving him a $1,000 signing bonus.
“He’s a guy who played hurt,” teammate Justin Smoak said, his voice breaking. “And a guy we’re definitely going to miss.”
Pillar’s time in Toronto was not always smooth. In May 2017, he was suspended two games after yelling a homophobic slur at Atlanta Braves reliever Jason Motte. Pillar later apologized to fans, Major League Baseball and the LGBTQ community.
Atkins said Hanson and Brito will join the Blue Jays, while Law would report to Buffalo and De Paula to Class A.
Hanson, 26, has a .238 hitter with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs in 243 games for Pittsburgh, the Chicago White Sox and San Francisco. Law, 28, was 9-3 with five saves and a 3.83 ERA in 109 games over three seasons with the Giants. De Paula, 21, struck out 55 batters in 52 1/3 innings in Class A last season.
Hanson has a $650,000 salary in the major leagues and Law $567,500.
“This is the busiest non-deadline day I think I’ve ever experienced,” Atkins said after announcing Grichuk’s contract in a hastily arranged availability in the press box.
San Francisco designated outfielder Michael Reed for assignment to make room for Pillar on the 40-man roster.