Jonathan Villar Signing Made Zero Sense
With the slow crawl of the free agent market, there were still a number of quality depth players available in free agency. Instead, the New York Mets opted to sign Jonathan Villar.
Villar, 29, has been an everyday player for most of his career. The last time he served in a utility role was with the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers. In that season, Villar hit .241/.293/.372. That 2017 season also happens to be the worst year of his career. By and large looking at that and his career as a whole, there really isn’t evidence Villar is well equipped to be a utility player.
That said, this is still a Mets team without a third baseman, and they don’t have a clear path at the moment to get one. Given the situation, it doesn’t hurt to add a player like Villar who has shown he can handle playing everyday, and he has shown the ability to play at different positions. However, that is only part of the equation.
When you look at Villar’s career, especially of late, you’d be hard pressed to find a reason why this is a good signing.
Since 2017, Villar is hitting .258/.320/.397 with a 91 wRC+. His being below average offensively is all the more alarming when you consider much of that was buttressed by a 2019 season where he hit .274/.339/.453 with a 109 wRC+. That 2019 season was mostly driven by a juiced ball and a .341 BABIP.
Looking at Baseball Savant, there is little hope for Villar to prove to be a good hitter. He has always had low hard hit rates, barrels, and launch angles. Yes, the noted exception was 2019 which had a juiced ball. If we are to believe baseball, they are going to go in the complete opposite direction and deaden that ball thereby removing all hope for Villar to repeat that season.
Suffice it to say, Villar is not a good hitter. Conversely, Villar has proven to be a very good pinch hitter with a .315/.327/.500 batting line in 55 appearances. While promising, that is a very small sample size.
Now, utility players need not be perfect. After all, if they were, they would be everyday players and not utility players. There is nothing wrong with having a utility player who doesn’t hit all that well but is a good fielder. Unfortunately, Villar is not a good fielder.
Since 2017, Villar is a -2 DRS at second base, -5 DRS at short, and a -3 DRS in the outfield. He hasn’t played third since 2016, and he has been a -7 DRS there in 429.0 innings. Really, there isn’t any place in the infield you feel comfortable sticking him and providing you good defense. All told, Villar is a classic case of just because you’ve played a number of positions, it doesn’t really mean you should play any of them. And if you can’t play positions well, you’re not really versatile.
Really, if you look at Villar the only thing he can provide is really good base running. He is a very good base runner who can steal bases even if he has declining speed. While he’s exceptional at that, it is not something which helps the Mets all that much. Most of the Mets everyday lineup has speed and are not going to be removed normally for a pinch runner. Really, teams don’t utilize pinch runners all that much until rosters expand late in the season, which they don’t really expand all that much anymore.
When you look at Villar, this is player who doesn’t hit and can’t field. He doesn’t solve the Mets third base need, and his presence promises to take away reps from Luis Guillorme who is a superior player. There were also far more superior options available and better fits for this Mets roster like Jedd Gyorko and Todd Frazier.
Really, the Mets could have and should have done better than Villar. In the end, we can only hope the Mets knew something we don’t about him because based on all that we see this isn’t a move which really helps improve the Mets roster.