SAN FRANCISCO -- The move might not have made headlines outside of Baltimore, but it was one that had many within the industry grumbling.
The Orioles, in full tank mode, opted to place infielder Jonathan Villar on outright waivers last week rather than pay him about $10 million in arbitration. Villar isn't a household name, but he was arguably Baltimore's best player, and in that sense he's similar to a man who is awaiting a decision from the Giants.
Kevin Pillar is projected to make nearly $10 million in his final year or arbitration and the Giants could argue that they would be better-served long-term by giving those at-bats to a younger option and spending their resources in a different way. But the Giants are not the Orioles, and in no way should they resemble them, really, which is what makes today's decision so fascinating. The Giants have until 5 p.m. to tender a contract to Pillar and five others, and their decisions will tell us a lot about the direction the front office is going.
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has talked often over the last year of being competitive while building a new foundation, and Pillar, the Willie Mac Award winner, was a big part of the limited success the Giants did have in 2019, hitting 21 homers and driving in 88 runs while providing plenty of highlights in center field.
There are reasons why the tender decision isn't a slam dunk, though. Pillar ranked 68th out of 69 qualified hitters in the NL with a .293 on-base percentage and while his pitchers love having him in center field, the defensive metrics don't match the eye test. Pillar also turns 31 in January, although he said at the end of the season that he doesn't anticipate slowing down at all.
"When I was in college and working towards getting to this moment, they used to say that baseball players enter their prime around 30 to 32, and I never forgot that," Pillar said. "I know the game statistically is getting younger, but to me age is just a number. I take care of myself, I eat the right foods, I believe in stretching and working hard and working out. I think it's no coincidence that at age 30 I'm having my best year."
Pillar's detailed pre-game routine had him on the field 161 times in 2019, and that's a big reason why the Giants are expected to agree to a deal with their center fielder, whether today or before a hearing in February. They may be rebuilding, but they still need to give fans a reason to show up next April, and Pillar was a big one in 2019.
The other decisions don't involve nearly as much money, but they'll shed some light into what Zaidi and Scott Harris are planning. Alex Dickerson is projected to earn about $1.2 million, per MLB Trade Rumors, the same number the reliable site had for Donovan Solano. Do Zaidi and Harris believe they can find cheaper, more flexible alternatives for the bench?
Tyler Anderson, picked up from the Rockies in early November, is projected at $2.6 million and a commitment that size would be a strong indication that Anderson is part of the 2020 rotation. Joey Rickard ($1.1 million) is expected to be non-tendered and the Giants also have to make a call on pitcher Wandy Peralta, who is projected at just $800,000 but occupies a 40-man spot that may be more valuable if used on someone else later in the offseason.