No good options for Orioles in Jonathan Villar puzzle - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

No good options for Orioles in Jonathan Villar puzzle

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

By 8 o’clock tonight, the Orioles will officially end Jonathan Villar’s time with the team. Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Orioles placed Villar on outright waivers, knowing that another team wasn’t going to claim him.

No team had expressed interest in trading for him. Surely the Orioles would have jumped at the opportunity to get a pair of teenaged players from the Dominican Summer League as they did with Andrew Cashner last July.

But no team wants to pay Villar the $10.4 million that MLBTradeRumors.com estimated he would fetch in arbitration. If someone claimed him, they’d be stuck with that contract.

When he’s declared a free agent tonight, Villar can sign with any team, including the Orioles, for a lesser amount, which is highly unlikely. Or, he can sign with another team for a lesser amount, and perhaps get a multi-year deal for his troubles.

Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias knows that Villar isn’t a part of the long-term plan for his team. It will be interesting to see what sort of market develops for him.

Villar, who missed none of the 216 games he was on hand for since joining the Orioles in August 2018, had career highs in home runs (24), RBIs (73) and runs scored (111) in 2019. He also stole 40 bases.

Baseballreference.com rated his WAR as 4.0  Fangraphs rates him a tick lower at 3.9, and he’s their 40th highest rated position player.

Those seemingly impressive stats don’t impress other teams.

The Orioles could have signed Villar for his final season before free agency and hoped he had another stellar season in 2020. But when they tried to trade him in July, there wasn’t a market for him, either.

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His best month was August, when he hit .333 and had a robust 1.053 OPS. Perhaps if there had been a secondary August 31 trade deadline as there had been in previous years, the Orioles could have avoided the embarrassment of dumping him for no return at all.

If they kept Villar, they were taking the risk that they would get no return for him a year from now when he would be a free agent.

But they still have a risk. At this point, they don’t have anyone to play half the time at second and half at short as Villar did in 2019. Last season, Villar had 319 at-bats playing both second and short.

While his batting average was roughly the same (.270) at second and (.273) at short, he showed more punch as a second baseman, hitting 14 of his 23 home runs and driving in 44 of his 73 RBIs.

Hanser Alberto, who will be offered a contract, will inherit some of his playing time at second, but he’s not a shortstop.

Richie Martin, whom the Orioles carried on the roster throughout the season because of Rule 5 requirements, could play shortstop but the team would like to see him play in Triple-A to become a better offensive player.

The team doesn’t have another true option in the middle infield. No infielder from Norfolk or Double-A Bowie was considered worthy enough of a September recall.

Last week, the Orioles did re-sign Jesmuel Valentin, who briefly played second and third as well as the outfield in 46 games for Philadelphia in 2018. He played 38 games at shortstop for the Baysox last season.

They also signed infielders Malquin Canelo and Angelo Mora. Neither is considered a big-time infield prospect.

Elias will have to scour the free agent lists to find alternatives to Martin and Villar.

The Orioles aren’t in the business of spending major money on free agents, and they’re hoping that a placeholder or two can be found cheaply.

Villar is one of seven arbitration-eligible Orioles who must be offered contracts by tonight’s 8 o’clock deadline or they become free agents. Two others, pitchers Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens, could be targeted by other teams, though their estimated 2020 salaries, $5.7 million for Bundy and $3.2 million for Givens, aren’t nearly as high as Villar’s.

Bundy and Givens come with two years of club control. Trey Mancini, who is up for arbitration for the first time, is also expected to draw $5.7 million.

The other players eligible are Alberto ($1.9 million), pitchers Richard Bleier ($1.1 million) and Miguel Castro ($1.2 million).

NOTE: On Monday morning, the Orioles agreed to terms with Bleier, avoiding arbitration.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Fareastern89

    December 2, 2019 at 7:33 am

    Looks like a number of other veteran middle infielders will be non-tendered by their clubs, too, so Elias probably will be able to replace Villar with a capable place-holder for much less than $10 million. Hopefully Hays can replace Villar’s offensive production — he almost has to hit substantially better than the O’s center fielders last year (Broxton, Wilkerson, Mullins).

  2. kjg719

    December 2, 2019 at 8:30 am

    I’m not liking how Elias is doing things he wants to rebuild but doesn’t have anyone of yet to fill the shoes he’s getting rid of you have to have some veteran players on your team to help out with some of the rookies and the better hitters he wants to trade that haven’t even broke a sweat in the major leagues yet I can see him cleaning out the bullpen and looking for starting pitchers but until he shows he can turn this team around I’m not liking him

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 2, 2019 at 10:13 am

      This is our first time hearing from you, kjg, and I hope we’ll hear from you again in the future.

  3. Orial

    December 2, 2019 at 8:44 am

    Villar and the situation surrounding him is a real head-scratcher. He has the “numbers” but nobody wants him. $10 million is not a bank breaker but yet everybody says it’s too much. Not sure if I’d want Villar to take less and come back to the O’s(he seems moody). The O’s will have huge holes at 2B,SS for a few years yet they don’t want him. Rich I know he can be careless on base,sloppy at times in the field but what is the draw back on Villar?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 2, 2019 at 10:15 am

      The drawback here is the price, Orial. If teams suspected the Orioles wouldn’t find a taker, why should they agree to pay the money he’d likely earn in arbitration when they could get him cheaper after the Orioles cut ties with him?

  4. geevee3

    December 2, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for the update Rich. Excellent.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 2, 2019 at 10:15 am

      You’re welcome, geevee.

  5. Birdman

    December 2, 2019 at 9:45 am

    The big unanswered question is whether the Orioles will be willing to spend again once the team (hopefully) becomes competitive in 2021/2022. Keeping salary costs low now makes sense, for a team doomed to failure. What we don’t know is whether ownership will eventually open the purse strings in a couple of years when the Orioles have a realistic chance to compete for the post-season. Or is a bare bones small market payroll simply the new normal from this point forward and, if so, what does that bode for a possible sale/relocation of the franchise.

    • Bancells Moustache

      December 2, 2019 at 10:06 am

      Exactly Birdman. We can dream about the Astros “genius master plan” all we want, Houston didn’t win a Championship until they plunked down a big chunk of scratch for Justin Verlander, and doesn’t reach a second Series without paying Gerrit Cole. Does anyone really see a scenario like that taking place in Baltimore?

      • Rich Dubroff

        December 2, 2019 at 10:17 am

        Bancells, the Rays have been competitive in the AL East without the resources that the Orioles have, and if they’re managed smartly, the Orioles can be competitive in the AL East.

        • Bancells Moustache

          December 2, 2019 at 11:37 am

          Please Rich, let us strike the C word from our vocabulary forever. Competitive isn’t good enough. Championships. That’s the only C word that should be acceptable after 36 years of futility.

          Also, if the future is the Tampa/Oakland model of crying poor, patching together a bunch of guys noone has heard of, turning the roster into a revolving door of players leaving because they can’t get paid here, popping up in the Wild Card every couple of years and listening to all the corporate bean counter types talk about how smart the front office is, I’m not sure that’s the type of team I want to pull for.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 2, 2019 at 10:16 am

      Birdman, as I’ve said repeatedly, the team is not moving. The idea is laughable.

      Once the team gets better in another year or two, I expect them to begin spending more money.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 2, 2019 at 12:07 pm

        Rich, I don’t see why the the thought of Baltimore losing the Orioles is so laughable?

        From an aging owner to the problems with crime and the corruption of local government, to the empty storefronts at the inner harbor, and a declining population … all the while being squeezed by 2 major metropolises from the north and south on I95 … it appears to me that Baltimore is ripe for the Orioles being sold and moving elsewhere.

        • Bancells Moustache

          December 2, 2019 at 12:34 pm

          I don’ get why it’s laughable that the Orioles aren’t on terra-firma either. The only thing they have to their advantage other than tradition (go ask the Brooklyn Dodgers what that will get you) is the Stadium. Oriole Park, in all it’s magnificence, is also nearly 30 years old. 2 stadiums built after it, Turner Field and whatever they were calling Arlington, are now abandoned. The argument is that MLB would never let it sit vacant. But would MLB, having seen the way the NFL used the threat of a Los Angeles move to pressure teams to build new absurdly expensive arenas for 25 years, not be able to weaponize a vacant Camden Yards in exactly the same way?

          • Rich Dubroff

            December 2, 2019 at 1:58 pm

            Bancells, those are interesting thoughts. The two stadiums that have been supplanted, Turner Field and Globe Life, never were considered in the top tier of stadiums. The feeling was that Turner Field was built away from where the bulk of Braves fans were. Traffic in Atlanta is awful, and there wasn’t anything to do around the ballpark. With their new park, which I think is fine, but not a top-tier park, there is an entertainment district surrounding the ballpark.

            The Rangers made a mistake in not putting a roof on their park when they built it in the mid-1990’s, and many fans stayed away because of the heat.

            There are no cities dying for major league baseball like there are in the NFL. If Portland, Charlotte, Indianapolis or Montreal built new parks, perhaps Tampa Bay and Oakland would have moved, but they haven’t. Nashville isn’t going to build a new park just because someone thinks the Orioles could conceivably come there.

        • Rich Dubroff

          December 2, 2019 at 1:53 pm

          Ken, the problems that you cite in Baltimore are all, as you know, not of the Orioles’ doing. The stadium situations in Tampa Bay and Oakland are far more concerning to MLB, and if those clubs haven’t yet relocated, the Orioles would be far down the list of possible relocations.

          If the team plays well in a few years, attendance should rise, but winning Nationals fans back may be a problem.

  6. OriolesNumber1Fan

    December 2, 2019 at 10:49 am

    My guess here on Villar is he probably wanted something close to the 10 plus million he should get from arbitration to agree to a pre-arbitration deal with the Orioles. The Orioles proved that no other team including them would pay this with the waiver ploy. So now he wants to move on from the Orioles and try to maybe catch on with a playoff team. He would now have to settle for a 2 – 3 yr deal worth 7 – 8 million per yr (Scoop got 7mm on a 1 year deal last yr). The Orioles won’t go that long or that high for some reason on a rebuilding team. Therefore, he leaves as a free agent now after they don’t tender him a contract.

    • OriolesNumber1Fan

      December 2, 2019 at 11:05 am

      PS: You could possibly blame the Chris Davis contract for this issue. The Orioles would no brainer easily swap Villar at 2- 3 yrs at 7.5mm for the Chris Davis
      contract!!!

  7. DevoTion

    December 2, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Rich, I have a question off of this topic. With all the pitch tipping scandal going on with the Astros, and although I have yet to hear Elias’s name mentioned, if he was linked to the cheating what might be the consequences for him directly? Or would only the Astros be penalized? This is something I have been wondering about since the news broke. Thanks

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 2, 2019 at 11:03 am

      His job with the Astros was supervising scouting and drafting. There are many people who MLB has to question, players, coaches, manager and executives.

  8. willmiranda

    December 2, 2019 at 11:26 am

    A couple thoughts. First, that teams won’t trade for Villar doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want him since they know the Orioles will be giving him away and another team will only have to compete on salary with other bidders. Second, the arbitration process, agreed to by management and labor as a way to fair contracts, has been rejected by the Orioles, who are much more comfortable losing games on the field than negotiations at the table. I note that in arbitration, the player submits a number and the team submits a number. We do not know what either of these numbers would have been; we only have the speculation of a private organization of 10 million dollars, which has been repeated endlessly by the media. This suits the suits in the warehouse because it seems like a large number, especially in light of last year’s salary. It is, however, not a number submitted by either the player or the club. Many arbitration cases are settled by splitting the difference. Does this mean Villar would be asking for $15 M while the club is offering $5 M? In any case, if Villar is in fact released, he would be foolish to return to the O’s, a team that doesn’t value him beyond being a stop-gap and a team built to lose for the foreseeable future. A winning team making a fair offer would be much better for him. It takes mucho dinero to compensate for chronic losing.

  9. NormOs

    December 2, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    Elais has already stated that the O’s are NOT interested in any of the top 50 free agents. It seems to me, it’s a strange way to have a “rebuild”. Shouldn’t there be any major league caliber players on your active roster in 20’/21′ if you are interested in competing in ’22/’23? The team, at this time, has Bundy, Means, Harvey, Mancini, Severino, and (hopefully) Alberto. After that, minor leaguers, waiver wire, rule 5, and NO bonafide FREE AGENTS (That would be Major league TOP 50 FREE AGENTS). I’m asking the age old question, “When does the rebuild start?”

    • Camden Brooks

      December 2, 2019 at 3:54 pm

      Norm you have a legit question, and I’ll venture a guess at the answer. Player development is Elias’ focus right now. When enough talent works it’s way up to Baltimore to create the foundation of a competitive team, I would think he will then fill in some missing gaps with legit free agent talent. Before that time comes, you aren’t going to see $10 million spent on Villar or anybody else for that matter. If all goes according to plan, maybe 2 more years IMO, but who really knows, particularly if kids don’t reach their potential.

      • Bancells Moustache

        December 2, 2019 at 4:12 pm

        I’ll also throw in that, while ’22/’23 hsa been the popular target, i can’t recall ever hearing Elias, the Angelos brothers, Hyde or anyone else say that. Seems like an arbitrary date that someone just pulled out of their you know what. From what I’m seeing, that may be overly optimistic, and the middle of the 20’s my be more realistic. Elias has one draft under his belt, the fruits of which we may begin to see in 2022, but will still be rookies trying to remember where the men’s room is. His other players are either studying for their finals, wondering who to take to Prom or doing who knows what in the Dominican somewhere right now. Everyone is expecting Rutchmann to come roaring into the bigs in 2 years, but do you really think a guy like Elias will start the service time on that guy earlier than he has to? Get comfy boys, this isn’t getting better anytime soon.

    • ClayDal

      December 2, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      One thing to keep in mind reference to the top free agents, is that the Orioles can’t sign them by offering market value. All things being equal, they go elsewhere. Does it make sense, at the beginning of a rebuild to overpay just to say you got somebody? Until the Orioles are competitive again, they are not going to be a top destination for free agents. That’s why they need to develop their own players

    • Camden Brooks

      December 2, 2019 at 4:48 pm

      My guess of 2 years is solely based on a presumption that our youngsters who have been successful in the minors, continue to progress up the ladder. Norfolk should see a decent influx of last year’s Bowie talent. Some of the pitching talent from Delmarva could be in Bowie midseason next year. So, two years from now, I’m hoping we have a young nucleus to build on while adding decent FA contributors. This is how a successful rebuild works. Now, how many of those guys can continue to improve as they jump levels is another legit question that we won’t know for a few years.

  10. J Guy

    December 2, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    Stevie Wilkerson is a second baseman and a good one

  11. NormOs

    December 2, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    So what, all of my friends on this post are saying “we can’t go after any MLB talent until we are competitive” Yeah, right! Good plan! Just one memory………..”The cavalry is on the way” How did that work out? “Rebuild” IMHO can’t begin without some MLB talent. What’s the odds on Mancini and Bundy being around THIS season? Another thing, just how many of these kids are going to make this team and who are they? And finally, the O’s aren’t interested in any of the top 50 free agents. When does the “rebuild” start? Anybody know?

    • Camden Brooks

      December 2, 2019 at 10:53 pm

      Why spend a bunch of money now when we can wait a year or two, and spend it when it will actually matter?

      • Birdman

        December 3, 2019 at 9:54 am

        That’s the key question – will ownership actually be willing to spend in a year or two?

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