So the Baltimore Orioles are doing wild and crazy things, but that may just work out in the Cincinnati Reds favor. Roch Kubatko of MASN is reporting that the Orioles have played shortstop/second baseman Jonathan Villar on waivers.
#orioles have put infielder Jonathan Villar on waivers. Been trying to trade him before Monday's deadline to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players.
— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) November 27, 2019
Jonathan Villar played in every single game for the Orioles in 2019. He hit .274/.339/.453 with 33 doubles, five triples, and 24 home runs. He also stole 40 bases in 49 attempts. All of that came while playing up the middle, splitting time at both second base and shortstop.
The Cincinnati Reds are in the market for a second baseman. And a shortstop. And the Baltimore Orioles just put one on the market without leaving themselves much bargaining power. Clearly there are going to be plenty of teams calling about a 4 WAR middle infielder, so the trade market will probably be there – but given that he’s on waivers, and only has one year remaining before free agency, teams are going to use that against what Baltimore is requesting in return.
MLB Trade Rumors projects that Jonathan Villar is due $10.4M in arbitration for the 2020 season. While that whole WAR/$ thing isn’t perfect, Fangraphs says he was worth $31.7M in 2019. He’s going to be worth whatever arbitration figure he does wind up getting – assuming things get that far and he and whatever team he winds up on can’t agree on a deal prior to the arbitration hearing.
The good side of things with Jonathan Villar is that he’s got power and he’s got speed. And he’s bringing those things at a position that historically only brings one of those things. On the flip side of things, if you want to nitpick – he doesn’t make a lot of contact. His strikeout rate in 2019 improved from where it had been the previous three seasons, but was still at 24.6%. As long as you are drawing walks and hitting for some power, you can get away with that and still have a solid average an on-base percentage. And that’s what Villar does. His defense up the middle doesn’t stand out, but he’s fully capable of handling both shortstop of second base without being a detriment, too.
With only one shortstop on the free agent market, Didi Gregorius, the Reds should run, sprint, whatever they have to do, to get on the phone with the Baltimore Orioles. This pick up would go a long way towards solving their biggest need for 2020 – a starting caliber, above-average hitting shortstop.