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…..).

45 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    I’m okay with it. We all know anything we tried before didn’t pan out, so to have options at this point is a good thing as I see it.

    I’m truly hoping Garcia gets continued development time this year and most of next. He won’t be the second coming of Barry Larkin (or Cozart for that matter), but I think he’ll end up starting and contributing. Whenever the season after this one actually happens, that is.

    • TR#1

      Shame on you Matt for having a typo and misspelling the great Barry Larkin name. Lol. Just kidding. I like Villar on a 2 mil deal plus incentives. Lessens pressure on Garcia and lets him develop for a little bit longer. If Villar is below average like in 2020, then cut him. However, I think he will be better than Galvis was last year.

  2. Justin

    Compared to all the options we now have, I think this is a good decision. I hope Bell can have a creative plan in place. If he starts every day at SS, it could have an impact on our high ground ball rate pitchers. Being in a park where it’s tough to pitch to fly all outs AND ground ball outs feels like it adds extra pressure to get K’s.

    I think we’ll have a 2022 season. Owners felt like they had more leverage before 2020/Covid. Players got a pay cut but even a fraction of the league minimum is plenty to live on during a global crisis. Plus they got extra rest. Owners took it on the chin (which I’m happy about, they had it coming). The possibility of them missing another season, it just seems easier for a player to weather than an organization.

    And I’m not turning on the TV or buying tickets for replacement players.

    • LDS

      David Bell, a creative plan? Now that’s funny. But he does fit into the Reds strategy to achieve total mediocrity, at a significant discount.

  3. BRM

    Ozuna is a better defender than Moose, Cast, and Votto lol

    • MBS

      I thought Mouse picked it pretty good, especially for being his first “full season” as a 2B. But yes Votto and Castellanos are hard to watch defensively.

    • MK

      How do you think Ozuma looks at 1st or 2nd base. Apples and Oranges there. Ozuna’s left field defense was abysmal in St.Louis.

  4. Rut

    The writing has been on the wall for a while that Villar (or a Villar like player) would be the Reds option at ss.

    I suppose that given the pass on the proven guys, I am most in favor of going for the upside of a guy like Villar. Just could be a scary bad defense if we have Geno/Villar/Moose/Votto with Winker/Castellanos in corner OF spots.

    That proposed team screams mediocrity, but could still get enough lucky breaks to sneak into playoffs.

  5. MBS

    If they do end up signing Villar, would Holder or Farmer be the better backup? I am not very familiar with Holder.

    • MK

      Think Farmer would get the nod on a roster spot due to versatility. He did set defensive shortstop records at U of GA.

  6. JB

    Villar is about it on the FA market. Not a needle mover for me. Blandino is going to be 29 this year. When is he going to get a try ? Can he be any worse than Villar? Villar throwing to Votto should be entertaining. We sat here last year and said the team is giving up defense for offense but man this team is going to hit the ball. How did that work out? This Front Office has put so many bandaids on their mistakes and misses this year that I wish they would go with what they got. They let Iglesias go last year because they had Galvis at 5 mil. Galvis didnt show anything the year before to make them believe he was worth the 5 mil to replace Iglesias. Now here we are with Villar and he will probably sucker this Front Office into a 2 year deal.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree, Iglesias has the skills and moxxy the Reds desperately need. In the short term, Villar gives others a chance to develop. The Reds Long term solution up the middle is anyone’s guess?? Nothing in the pipeline appears solid IMO. Best thing Reds could hope for is Votto playing well so maybe they could find a away to move him at the deadline??

      • jbonireland

        You can’t move Votto he has a no trade contract and says he ain’t leaving.

      • MuddyCleats

        jbonireland, I know and that’s always bothered me about him. It seems He’d rather stay here than possibly play somewhere else for a championship? Notice, I mentioned, “find a way” to trade him. More than likely, it would b a playoff team who needs his skill down the stretch (injury?) and then Joey agreeing to it. The other option would b to ask him to restructure his contract which I realize isn’t likely either. Luv Joey, but he simply isn’t performing up to his contract and it’s preventing the organization fm adding pieces & moving forward.

      • Doug Gray

        The ownerships lack of willingness to spend is preventing the organization from adding pieces, not Joey Votto’s salary.

  7. Colorado Red

    I like the signing. Compared to what a trade would have cost the Reds, this looks better.

  8. Tom Mitsoff

    Villar is a switch-hitter, and his splits from both sides of the plate are about even, so he likely would not be a platoon player. Defensively, not so good. As a shortstop, his career DRS (defensive runs saved) is -14, according to Fangraphs.

    As has been mentioned elsewhere on the Internet, this team could be a defensive nightmare — even more so than it was last year. It’s conceivable that David Bell could be making defensive replacements at three positions (right field, first base and shortstop) in games in which the Reds are ahead late.

    Let me restate that. I’m not saying that he will, but that he should.

    You may have seen that Elvis Andrus was traded from Texas to Oakland. Cincinnati was never going to be in on Andrus. He has two guaranteed seasons at $14M each remaining, and a third year with a $15M option that vests with playing time milestones.

    • Melvin

      I think you forgot about if Winker is playing LF. LOL We’re going to need an expanded roster for late game replacements. 🙂

    • MBS

      I agree with you. Before this rumor I was hoping for Senzel at SS, with Rodriguez coming in as a defensive replacement. I would then slide Senzel to 2B.

      Since Moustakes can also play 3B, and 1B you could pull Moustakes, Votto, or Suarez. You can base it on least likely to come up to bat again, or as a strictly defensive measure (Votto).

      Also if Lorenzen is a Starter, he could probably be a defensive replacement most nights.

      • Melvin

        Seems like they’re getting desperate enough to try Senzel at SS again. As I recall I believe Larkin said he could play there after working with him. He can’t be much worse than some of the options they have left.

      • MBS

        I think he’s the best in-house option. Senzel might even be a better option than Villar, depending if we’d get the 19 or 20 Villar. Villar would still be a good move I think. Villar is inexpensive and versatile. Tom said above Villar has good splits, so no need for platooning him. Although Boone might think up one.

  9. Optimist

    This is a 3-month deal, and if they contend, they go after a big-name soon-to-be-FA rental for the stretch run. If they add an option for next year, and Villar shines, and they don’t contend, they move him for prospects at the deadline. Could work both ways, but more likely and hopeful for the former.

    • AllTheHype

      Astute observation on the 3 month part. But as for the club option, likely not happening from Villar’s camp. If he’s on a cheap bounce back type deal, he’s not going to give away an additional year of club control. He wants to prove himself then hit the market again right away.

      • JayTheRed

        Actually he would be smart to take an team option. He is not going to get anything near what the rest of the SS market is going to be dishing out next offseason. There are a lot of superstar SS next offseason currently. I honestly think he would jump on board if they offered a club option or mutual option.

  10. Mark Moore

    BTW, the J&J vaccine is now under FDA review with an expectation of a decision in about 21 days. Efficacy is about 72% and it’s a 1-shot with normal storage requirements. POTUS is already angling for J&J to beef up production in advance of approval. To me, that’s encouraging. We may see the needle move yet.

    • lost11found

      J&J already mentioned (pre-election) they were planning to stockpile doses ahead of final approval. I believe the two approved vaccines also followed a similar plan. So who is the POTUS really has nothing to do with it.

  11. Matt Rinck

    I disagree with saying Villar is inconsistent. He consistently strikes out a lot. He’ll fit right in with the rest of the Reds line up. Should there be fans allowed this year they will enjoy a nice cooling breeze from top to bottom of this line up. Looks like another boring season of “three true outcomes” that the analytics guys love and that makes fans tune out.

    • Doug Gray

      You are confused about what the analytics guys love. They would absolutely love a guy who walks a ton, hits for a ton of power (two of the three true outcomes), and a guy who makes tons of contact. Those guys are insanely rare. And every last one of them is insanely valuable.

      • Matt Rinck

        I’m not confused at all. They would rather a guy swing from his heels every time up on every pitch so they can squeeze out a few more home runs a year in exchange for a few dozen more strike outs. Yawn.

      • DataDumpster

        Sure that is the desired result but what teams and especially the Reds usually get is the three outcomes Matt described and certainly not the get on base outcome and perhaps a modest above average amount of walks (afforded to any power hitter).

      • Doug Gray

        Matt said “what the analysts like”, which isn’t true. Analysts just understand that you can be a TTO hitter and still be valuable. But they’d all prefer the guy with the walks and the power without the strikeouts because it’s almost a guarantee that guy is going to be a far better hitter. That guy is just incredibly rare in today’s game. That’s where the statement fell apart.

        And Matt, without actually providing the specific outcome of “a few more homers for a few dozen strikeouts”, it’s tough to really argue the other side. What’s a few more? What’s the baseline for the player? Are we talking about a player who started with 5 home runs and 30 strikeouts on the year who they’d rather be a 10 homer guy with 55 strikeouts on the year? Or are you talking about a 35 homer guy with 150 strikeouts who can be a 40 homer guy with 190 strikeouts?

        In the end, there is certainly a trade off where it’s worth it to trade more strikeouts for more power. But there’s a limit on how many strikeouts are worth that trade off for how much extra power. Slugging is far more valuable to scoring runs than average is.

        End of the day, analysts want fewer strikeouts. Everyone knows that’s better. But they want that if it means keeping the same other stuff, which is typically rare.

    • Steven Ross

      I side with Matt. One example is when the entire left side of the infield is wide open for an obvious bunt hit yet few if any take advantage it. This never would have happened before analytics and shifts. It’s okay to K now instead of laying down a bunt for a hit. There’s little manufacturing of runs anymore. It’s get someone on then hope for a blast. Go ahead and rip me but a lot of my friends feel the same way now.

      • Doug Gray

        You will not find an analyst who would suggest taking the single in this scenario isn’t the best move. The problem is it’s not a guarantee that the player can do it. When these discussions happen it seems that the belief is that the player just has an overwhelming likelihood of success if they try it. Guys are throwing 90 MPH sliders today. Just trying to slap the ball the other way isn’t like it used to be when Tom Browning was throwing 84 MPH fastballs in 1992. And that, I think, is where the disconnect really comes from. Hitting is so much harder today than ever before. Take a chance and go watch some older baseball games on Youtube. Look at the pitchers and what they were throwing. Look at the hitters and their mechanics. The game is so different today in how one can execute.

      • Melvin

        Doug,
        You make some good points about how much more difficult today’s pitching is to hit. It was a lot easier to slap the ball the other way or even bunt in not too distant years. Don’t you think, in theory at least, the hitting is more advanced as well or at least should be? IMO hitters today could still do it. They just don’t put their heart in to it. If they did then that would eliminate for the most part “the shift”.

      • Doug Gray

        Hitters are definitely better, too – they have to be. But I don’t think it’s a matter of “they aren’t trying”. The pitching simply is too good. The scouting reports are far too detailed. A pitcher can adjust to a scouting report on a hitter far quicker than a hitter can adjust to the scouting report of their own weaknesses, if they can do so at all.

      • Melvin

        Your points are well taken. Personally I don’t believe hitters for the most part have much interest in it though. That’s the crazy part to me. If a hitter can make contact he should, at least to some degree, be able to lightly hit the ball the other way. A hitter can make adjustments too according to how the defense is playing far quicker than the defense can on the hitter e.g. closed vs, open stance. I closed stance of course makes going the other way much easier no matter what the pitcher is throwing. If a hitter needs to he can back away from the plate a little as well. These are the adjustments that we are not seeing.

  12. burtgummer01

    Realizing that this guy was let go in favor of Jose Iglesias and Freddy Galvis isn’t awe imspiring

    • Casey21

      He was not let go for lack of performance. They didn’t pick up his $10 million option.

  13. DIck Paterson

    So maybe this could be interesting to let Garcia, Farmer, Holder, and (Villar) compete for the job and let someone break out like Gennett did in 2017. Odds are pretty good one of the four will have a decent year.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      The odds aren’t that good. Garcia and Villar have upside but Garcia is probably a year or two from being big league material at the plate. Villar is the other guy of the three who has a chance to be a solid hitter but he’s coming off of an atrocious year. If the Reds sign him hopefully it was just a covid season decline due to the circumstances.

  14. Hotto4Votto

    Well when you sit around all offseason not doing anything, don’t be surprised when you’re left holding the bag, and Villar is the best of bad options. Infield defense may be brutal. Villar will provide more offensive upside than Farmer, but that’s if we get good Villar. Probably not an upgrade from Galvis all things considered, so not an improvement from last season. I’d rather them sign Villar than trade any prospect of worth for Rosario. So there’s that. Still a rather meh addition that doesn’t really bring any excitement for 2021.

  15. Matt WI

    Saw the Reds hired a new play by play guy for tv. I feel for Jim Day, unless he didn’t want it.

  16. Michael B. Green

    If you examine SS advanced fielding stats for SS on Fangraphs over the last 3 years (min 900 innings), you’ll see that Villar ranks average to below average. However, in many categories, he ranks better than Trea Turner, Cory Seager, Fernando Tatis, Jr., Tim Anderson and Gleyber Torres. If you focus on DP metrics, he is elite with only Javier Baez ranking better.

    That tells me he can handle the position in the short-term. This gives Garcia key development time.

    Offensively, you hope you get lightning in a bottle. In fact, over the same 3-year period, he ranks #1 in SB (minimum 1,400 PA). He’s tied with Lindor in BB% and he’s #2 in BsR (behind Trea Turner).

    This spells out, that CIN could snag a short-term fill at SS that is average on D but can turn the DP, and is average offensively but elite on the bases and decent at drawing walks.

    He has very little post-season experience however.