Chicago was tied to Eric Sogard before he was traded from Toronto to Tampa Bay, and Addison Russell’s recent demotion to Triple-A Iowa further illustrates that the Cubs could be in the mix for a second baseman. The potential return of Ben Zobrist, who is slated to head out on a minor league rehab assignment, could lessen any urgency to make an outside addition, though.
Villar has split the 2019 season between shortstop and second base in Baltimore, drawing negative reviews at second base from both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating a year after rating quite well in both categories. His familiarity with shortstop would also be a welcome addition for the Cubs, given that Russell’s demotion left the MLB roster without a true backup to Javier Baez there.
The 28-year-old Villar is hitting .262/.326/.421 with 13 home runs, 22 doubles, two triples and 22 stolen bases (in 28 attempts). Villar’s speed is an element the Cubs’ roster currently lacks. His 22 steals are only seven fewer than the Cubs have totaled as a team. Villar’s wheels likely hold some interest to the Cubs — they’ve also been connected to fleet-footed D-backs outfielder Jarrod Dyson — but Villar’s 24.1 percent strikeout rate (26.7 percent for his career) don’t align with Chicago’s reported interest in adding hitter with plus contact skills (e.g. Sogard, Dyson).
From a contractual standpoint, Villar is affordable. He’s being paid $4.825MM in 2019 (with about $1.66MM yet to be paid out) and is controllable via arbitration for the 2020 season as well. The Orioles were also willing to include some cash in the trade that sent Andrew Cashner to Boston, providing reason to believe they’d be willing to do so with their other trade assets as a means of sweetening the prospect return. Given his relative proximity to free agency and the Orioles’ aggressive tear-down, Villar is a logical trade candidate in the next three days. However, the demand for pitching help throughout the league is far greater than the demand for middle infielders, and the Orioles don’t necessarily need to move Villar if no appealing offer materializes.