Cubs running out of reasons to keep Jonathan Villar around
When the Chicago Cubs landed Jonathan Villar in the offseason, it seemed like a solid, if frugal pickup. While not the big-ticket shortstop (namely Carlos Correa) everyone hoped for, he seemed like a decent pickup given his track record. He was coming off a good if somewhat unremarkable 2021 campaign with the Mets and on the one-year, $6 million, incentive-laden contract he signed, he seemed like a steal for his upside.
Unfortunately, what should’ve been a worthwhile addition has been a complete disaster. To this point, Villar has been worth -0.5 WAR with the Cubs and sports an unsightly 63 OPS+ which ranks as the worst of his career. The only remotely positive thing he does offensively is steal bases as he’s tied for second on the team with six. Although that’s not much use when he’s getting on base at a .269 clip.
But wait, there’s more! Not only is he one of the worst hitters on the team, but he’s also one of the worst defenders in baseball, a trend he’s kept up quite well since we first noted it in April. By OAA, he’s not at the bottom of the barrel anymore. He’s merely sixth-worst with -7. The mistakes have been extremely costly too. Against the Pirates on Monday, his two misplays extended an inning for Caleb Kilian and ultimately led to runs scoring where they shouldn’t have.
Cubs: Designating Jonathan Villar for assignment can’t be ruled out
Jason Heyward has often been the focus of so much ire for the Cubs inexplicably playing him over young players who could blossom into something more, but Villar finds himself with somehow even less of a purpose. Even compared to his fellow anger-inducing middle infielder Andrelton Simmons, there’s more reason to hang onto the latter due to his defense. Villar has nothing to offer.
As soon as David Bote and Seiya Suzuki or Nick Madrigal come back, he’ll be completely expendable. With Bote able to help at second and Morel likely moving to the infield to accommodate Heyward moving to center (because Heyward is eternal, Heyward is inevitable), there will officially be no reason to trot Villar out there. Bote is under contract for longer and, more than likely, will be able to at least play on a similar level to Villar now while Morel still deserves a consistent lineup spot.
As for Madrigal, it could mean more regular at-bats. In general, those at-bats would go to someone who actually has a chance at being a part of the future for the Cubs. Such a move would be best for Villar at this point too. The 31-year-old has no chance of getting regular at-bats in this crowded Cubs infield. He’d be best served either in the minors or somewhere else.
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It’s hard to justify a continued roster spot for someone who hasn’t hit, hasn’t defended and isn’t going to be part of the next great Cubs team, whenever that is. He also doesn’t offer trade value, so it doesn’t make sense to hold him until the deadline. It’s best for the Cubs to DFA him and be done with it so another spot can stay open for someone more likely to make a difference on this team.