As the trade deadline nears, the latest Cubs rumors connect the team to Baltimore Orioles veteran middle infielder Jonathan Villar.
Cubs rumors have been swirling, but the team has been relatively quiet on the trade market this season. They recently acquired veteran catcher Martin Maldonado and left-hander Derek Holland, but other than that, there haven’t been any big splashes. If we’re being honest, that probably won’t change. Chicago’s farm system isn’t what it once was, but that was to be expected at this point in their competitive window.
That doesn’t mean they can’t add smaller pieces in certain areas, though. Middle infield depth was a concern for this team before the season started and that’s still the case as July wraps up. The answer, or at least a possibility, may lie in Baltimore. According to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, the Cubs and Orioles have discussed a trade for middle infielder Jonathan Villar.
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Villar, 28, has played 75 games at second base and 55 games at shortstop for the Orioles this season. He is currently slashing .262/.326/.421 with 13 home runs and 47 RBI over 453 plate appearances.
Overall, those are good numbers, to be sure. On paper, that slash line makes him look like a vast improvement over any of the team’s current options. But there are pros and cons to consider with Villar.
The most notable con is his defense. He’s not necessarily a bad defender, but he’s certainly not an upgrade over Ian Happ or Addison Russell in that regard (though Russell is now in Triple-A). He’s also struggled against left-handed pitching this year, slashing .243/.270/.395 on the year.
With the Cubs’ pitching staff being so inconsistent this season, defense is more important than ever. At best, Villar plays just an average second base. He won’t ‘wow’ you and the Cubs have been fortunate enough to have multiple ‘wow’ you guys in the infield in recent years. Javier Baez is one of those players, and so it’s worth considering how a defensive downgrade at second base would affect Baez on potential double plays.
Villar isn’t going to walk a whole lot, either. His walk rate in 2019 has been right about at the league average. Despite his many flaws at the plate, the Cubs could get a better walk rate out of someone like Happ.
That’s where the organization has to decide which way they want to compromise. Happ will walk at a higher rate and probably has a bit more pop than Villar, but that’s about it. The O’s veteran, on the other hand, will be a more consistent hitter at the plate, but without walking much.
So while Villar could potentially help, he’s not the ideal, clear-cut solution that would check everything off the list. Such a player may not be in the cards given the Cubs’ restraints.