Should the Braves extend Kevin Pillar?

MLB: JUL 19 Diamondbacks at Braves

The Braves have gotten some unlikely heroics from their bench this season, which has been a theme over the past few years. Yesterday, it was Kevin Pillar, who came up with the game-tying hit in the 9th inning off of All-Star closer David Bednar, leading to a much-needed Braves win.

Pillar was a staple with the Blue Jays from 2013-2019 and has bounced around multiple teams since then. He signed with the Braves in the offseason for one year, $3 million and has been well worth the value, which begs the question, should the Braves consider giving another year or two to the 34-year-old?

Pillar hasn’t been perfect, but he has been effective in a pinch on more than one occasion. He is a specialist against lefties; posting a .760 OPS with four home runs, five doubles, and 11 RBI over 75 plate appearances. His numbers against righties are not as appealing, but he’s also a valuable defensive player.

The Braves are heavy on lefties in the outfield with Michael Harris II and Eddie Rosario typically starting. Surprisingly, both of them hit lefties pretty well, although Rosario’s sample size is a small one.

It’s unclear what the Braves will decide to do with left field this offseason. They could decline Eddie Rosario‘s club option and save $9 million while looking for a short-term solution. They could also look to make a big splash, with Juan Soto potentially available via trade and Shohei Ohtani hitting free agency. This would diminish the need for someone like Pillar. You always need bench bats, but I don’t think there’s any situation where you sub out Soto or Ohtani to chase a righty-lefty matchup.

However, getting a star is the unlikely scenario. The more likely scenario is the Braves pick up Rosario’s club option and keep Marcell Ozuna for 2024 before exercising the opt-out in his contract after the season. This would really clear a path for getting someone like Soto in the winter of 2024, but we’re putting the cart before the horse.

If the Braves do hold course, which is very possible, bringing back Pillar in the role he currently occupies makes a ton of sense; especially if the price is right. It’s a little too early to be thinking about plans for left field, but Kevin Pillar is making a strong case to stick around beyond 2023.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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