The Cincinnati Reds rumor this morning was that they had signed free agent shortstop Jonathan Villar. It turned out that rumor wasn’t true, but that the team was indeed engaged in talking with him about signing a deal according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
Cincinnati is in need of a starting shortstop. Kyle Farmer and Kyle Holder seem to be the two front runners for the job right now, with Alex Blandino and Jose Garcia as the other options. None of the four players has ever been an every day shortstop in the Major Leagues for more than a handful of weeks. Among the group only Garcia projects to even be an every day shortstop in the big leagues, and the Reds went into the offseason believing that he wasn’t ready to handle that job in 2021 and that they needed someone to bridge the gap until he was.
If the team does wind up signing Jonathan Villar, we’ll have a deeper dive into all things that need to be looked at as far as his upside, downside, reliability, etc. For now, we’ll keep it a bit more simple: He’s been an All-Star caliber player as recently as 2019. But he’s also been a below-average or below replacement level in three of the last four seasons. In 2019 he posted a .792 OPS (109 OPS+) with 40 steals – that’s the upside. In 2020 he posted a .593 OPS (64 OPS+) – that’s the downside (and the 2020 season wasn’t his lone well below-average season).
He’s inconsistent, but with upside. It’s a low-cost gamble, and be sure to recognize those words are very important – low-cost, and gamble. It’s risky. There’s upside. But the odds are against that upside.
Of course, we can’t forget about this:
The Braves sign Marcell Ozuna to a 4-year deal
If you are wondering why this is Cincinnati Reds related news, that’s understandable. But it’s Reds related because the idea is that Marcell Ozuna is pretty much a designated hitter these days. Currently the National League doesn’t have a designated hitter role, though the owners and players both want it – they are both trying to use it as leverage to get something else that they want that’s related to their share of revenues. This does seem to signal that if nothing else, the Atlanta Braves seem confident that if a designated hitter isn’t happening in 2021, that it most certainly is going to be a part of the next collective bargaining agreement whenever baseball resumes in 2022 (or, gasp, 2023…..).