MLB teams sure love star-level players. All of them, really. But only a handful of them like to actually pay them what they are looking for in the market. That’s why clubs are always on the lookout for versatile pieces who can cover several positions and offer something offensively: some power, blazing speed, or the ability to take walks and get on base, for example.
Jonathan Villar falls in that category. He is not a star and never has been, not even in 2019 when he finished with 3.9 fWAR or in 2016 when he stole 62 bags. However, he is a versatile fielder who can cover three infield positions (second base, third base, and shortstop in a pinch) and also the outfield corners in an emergency. He is not a particularly good fielder at any of those, but he also holds his own everywhere.
More importantly, he offers a league-average bat (career line of .258/.326/.403 with a 97 wRC+) and plenty of speed and pop. His season-high in home runs is 24, set in 2019 with the Baltimore Orioles, and his best mark in stolen base is the aforementioned 62 in 2016. He is also a switch-hitter, and one who isn’t considerably better hitting from any side (he has a career 97 wRC+ both as a lefty and as a righty).
He signed with the New York Mets before the 2021 season for one year, in a deal worth a little over $3.5 million, to be a Swiss-Army knife. Injuries and other circumstances forced him to play 142 games and accumulate 505 plate appearances, in which he homered 18 times, stole 14 bags, and hit .249/.322/.416 with a 105 wRC+.
When all was said and done, Villar was worth 2.1 fWAR, his third-highest season total after the 3.9 of 2019 and the 3.0 in 2016. He ended up playing third base for much of the year after injuries and a poor glove limited JD Davis to only a handful of games.
At 30 years old, it’s likely that his days of getting 60 or more thefts are over. However, he is a dynamic player who can be a regular, or play nearly every day, if deployed properly. He won’t be the star in any team or even a top-five position player in a contender. But Villar will play hard and help his next manager solve many problems with his versatility.
A lot of teams could sure use a player with Villar’s profile. The Mets still need a third baseman who can compete with Davis, although they may send Jeff McNeil there with the pending return of second baseman Robinson Cano. The Colorado Rockies need help in their infield, as do the Chicago White Sox.
He can be the super-utility in a contender, and gain regular playing time in case of injury. That happened with the Mets in 2021, but after a strong season, he may look for a higher average annual value (think around $6.5 million or more), more length of commitment, and more plate appearances.
It’s unclear what things Villar would prioritize when he signs his next contract. But he already took a discount by playing for less than $4 million on a one-year deal, and after proving he can still contribute, he may just go for the highest bidder. A two-year deal is not out of the question.
Andrés Chávez loves the game of baseball and writes about it at Beyond the Box Score, Pinstripe Alley, and other sites. He is on Twitter as @andres_chavez13