Rox deal for Pillar to bolster OF defense

September 1st, 2020

DENVER -- The Rockies’ Trade Deadline-beating acquisition of from the Red Sox on Monday helps the defense and strengthens the lineup, with the hope that the lineup core will produce.

Pillar, one of the Majors’ top defensive outfielders for a decade, settles center field and figures to help a batting order that has produced little toward the bottom. But no power bat was added to the core of the order that has seen and struggle most of the season -- and has seen some hot streaks and human stretches from and .

The Rockies also acquired right-handed reliever from the Orioles on Sunday.

For the Rockies and Padres, who wrapped a four-game series at Coors Field on Monday night, the Deadline served as a contrast in approaches. The Padres addressed almost every conceivable area while the Rockies simply added pieces to what they feel is strong starting pitching and a lineup that needs to click. It’ll take the remainder of 2020 -- which both teams fully expect to extend into the expanded postseason -- to determine whose moves were better.

No move by the Rockies or the Padres changes one factor: Under OPS+, a park-adjusted offensive stat that has 100 as league average, the Padres have five players -- Fernando Tatis Jr. (186), Jake Cronenworth (183), Manny Machado (173), Wil Myers (160) and Eric Hosmer (147) -- with a higher number than the Rockies’ leader, Story (138).

“It’s not going to take just our core, veteran players -- it’s going to take all of them,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “But I’ve said it before: Our time’s coming. But we’re a little over halfway through the season, still a lot of baseball left and a lot of at-bats for our offense to get rolling.

“That’s the expectation.”

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Here’s a look at the acquisitions:

Pillar improves the defense, lengthens the lineup and adds fun
Pillar, 31, has been among the Majors' leaders in defensive runs saved, mostly in center, with the Blue Jays (2013-19), Giants (’19) and Red Sox (’20). With Boston, he slashed .274/.325/.470 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 30 games. He steps in at center field, which turns right-handed-hitting, multi-position player and left-handed-hitting into depth pieces.

Black said Pillar will hit in the lower part of the order, which needs help (.218/.270/.631 for a 91 OPS-plus in slots 7-9). Pillar has performed well in 12 career games at Coors (.326, six doubles and a home run).

Important, too, is an intangible factor that showed up during the first three games of the four with the Padres -- two of them Rockies losses. The Padres have a loud dugout and players with style. The Rockies tend to color within the lines.

“It’s a big part of the equation in this case, and I see a lot of the same sorts of qualities that we really desired and respected in Gerardo Parra,” Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. “… Watching Gerardo play against us, we respected the way he went about doing the little things to help teams win a game, bringing some personality and excitability on the field, and caring about defense and being an excellent defender.”

Bridich signed Parra as a free agent in January 2016, and the outfielder spent three seasons in Colorado. Pillar, meanwhile, is expected to join the Rockies for their game Tuesday night against the Giants.

The Rockies need Pillar because 2019 All-Star has not played since Aug. 17 because of lower back soreness, and it’s not clear when he will return.

Pillar was obtained for either a player to be named or cash considerations, plus international amateur signing bonus pool space. Players not on a team’s 2020 player pool, which has a limit of 60 players, can be dealt only as players to be named.

Givens ready to jump in immediately
Givens, 30, who reported to the Rockies on Monday and said he is available, adds an important, experienced piece to the bullpen. With the Orioles this season, Givens performed well in mostly one-inning shots. The first 10 of his 12 outings were scoreless, and he gave up a run in the last two in his only games of more than one inning.

With solid fastball velocity and a hard slider, Givens has controlled right-handed hitters to the tune of a .125 batting average and .237 on-base percentage in 38 plate appearances. He also has held lefty hitters to .250 (3-for-12) and incorporates a changeup in those instances.

“I’m a fastball-slider-changeup guy -- a mix guy, but really strong use of my fastball,” Givens said. “I try to get ahead with my fastball and keep the guys off-balance when I need to.”

Other moves
• The Rockies placed infielder on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder capsular strain and called up righty from the alternate training site. Rodgers, 24, the No. 3 overall Draft pick in 2015, missed the end of last season because of right labrum surgery.

• The Rockies optioned lefty reliever (16.88 ERA in six games) to their alternative site.