The Baltimore Orioles put second baseman Jonathan Villar on waivers this week. Could he be an option for the Chicago Cubs?
The Baltimore Orioles surprised a lot of people this week when they placed second baseman Jonathan Villar on waivers. Since the Chicago Cubs are looking for both a leadoff hitter and a second baseman for 2019, would Villar be a good fit for them?
The Orioles obviously did this as a cost-cutting move, after they were unable to trade Villar away. Buster Olney called the move “soulless,” while the move has other O’s fans upset. If the Orioles don’t trade him by Monday, or if no other team claims him, the 28-year-old Villar will become a free agent, and the Orioles will risk losing him for nothing besides salary relief.
Villar is projected to earn $10.4 million in salary arbitration after a great season in which he played in all 162 games. He batted .274 with 24 home runs, 33 doubles, 73 RBIs, 40 stolen bases, and 111 runs scored. Any team that claims him on waivers will be on the hook for whatever he makes through the arbitration process, but if he becomes a free agent, he can sign anywhere for any amount.
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Given that the Cubs don’t appear to be in a position to spend much money this offseason, they likely wouldn’t claim Villar on waivers. In fact, there’s a good chance that no team will, as the fact that the Orioles couldn’t trade Villar before now is an indication that there aren’t many teams that value Villar at his projected arbitration salary for 2020.
The Cubs were reportedly interested in Villar at the trade deadline in July. If they wait out the waiver process, perhaps they could sign Villar to a multiple-year deal at a lower annual rate.
He could fit both their need for a second baseman and a leadoff hitter, especially as he brings speed to a team that could desperately use it. The Cubs have been linked to Whit Merrifield a lot this offseason; since they likely don’t have what it takes to trade for him, Villar could be a more attractive alternative.
Villar isn’t without question marks. His defense is considered to be okay but not great at second base. (He’s also played a little shortstop and could be a backup to Javier Baez.) His whopping 176 strikeouts in 2019 could also be a concern, though he did also draw 61 walks.
Still, if the Cubs are looking for a potential second baseman and leadoff hitter with speed for 2020, they should at least check in on Villar should he indeed become a free agent. In any case, what is the Orioles’ loss will be another team’s gain.