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Kevin Pillar, Mets agree to one-year deal, source says

Kevin Pillar of the Rockies rounds the bases

Kevin Pillar of the Rockies rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the top of the third inning against the Giants at Oracle Park on Sept. 21, 2020, in San Francisco. Credit: Getty Images/Lachlan Cunningham

Continuing their recent emphasis of adding solid depth players, the Mets agreed to a one-year major-league contract with outfielder Kevin Pillar on Monday, a source confirmed.

The deal is contingent on Pillar passing a physical, the source said.

Pillar, 32, would seem to fit into the same role carved out for Albert Almora Jr.: a light-hitting fourth outfielder who can be a late-innings defensive replacement for centerfielder Brandon Nimmo or leftfielder Dominic Smith and sometimes start against lefthanders.

Almora, who signed a one-year contract last week, can be optioned to the minors. That allows the Mets to carry Pillar on the major-league roster and keep Almora on standby should one of their outfielders need to be replaced.

Once an elite defender, Pillar isn’t so much anymore. Over the past three seasons, he has a combined minus-10 defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs. In the three seasons before that, he totaled 60 DRS.

But Pillar still is an effective hitter against southpaws. His .274 average, .303 OBP and .496 slugging percentage against lefties since the start of 2018 includes a .342/.390/.579 slash line last year.

Overall, Pillar was solid at the plate during the shortened 2020 season, posting .288/.336/.462 marks with the Red Sox and Rockies.

In Boston, he played for a front office that included Zack Scott, then an assistant general manager for the Red Sox and now the Mets’ acting GM.

As spring training opens this week, the Mets’ bench looks close to complete. A four-man reserve group likely will include utilityman Jonathan Villar, infielder Luis Guillorme and catcher Tomas Nido.

The Mets also have Jose Martinez, a DH, first baseman and corner outfielder who like Almora is on a major-league deal but can be optioned to the minors. A five-man bench would mean the Mets have room for one of the two — or another player who impresses during camp.

Throughout the offseason, the Mets have been heavily linked to Jackie Bradley Jr., who was the second-best free-agent centerfielder (following George Springer, who was a Mets target but signed with the Blue Jays).

But without the National League having the DH spot — at least for now — the Mets haven’t committed to giving everyday at-bats to a free-agent centerfielder, instead settling for backups Pillar and Almora.

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