The Reds are in discussions with free agent infielder Jonathan Villar, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). Yancen Pujols initially reported that Villar and the Reds had a deal for $2MM plus incentives, but it now appears as if discussions are ongoing. Villar, one of the last free agent infielders on the market with extended experience in a starting role, could end up settling for a minor league deal before it’s all said and done, per Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter).
It seemed at the outset of the offseason that the Reds would be players in the shortstop market, and though they dipped their toes in the free agent market, ultimately, they stood idly by as Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, Ha-Seong Kim, and Didi Gregorius found homes outside Cincinnati. New GM Nick Krall has stayed in cost-cutting mode for the majority of the offseason, however.
Villar and his representation at Wasserman might pitch Villar’s potential dynamism as his market advantage. His ability to play both middle infield positions as well as centerfield, on the surface, would provide the Reds with yet another flexible defender. Of course, Villar’s defensive metrics have been subpar pretty much across the board, and if they consummate the deal, he’d be expected to be full-timer at short. He’s flashed enough leather at short in the past to make him a viable option there, though he’ll represent a downgrade defensively from the duo of Freddy Galvis and José García. García remains on hand, of course, and the Reds are high enough on him that he could push Villar for playing time at some point in 2021.
Villar has, at times, been a well above-average option in the infield, most recently in 2019 when he appeared in all 162 games for the Orioles. He put up a triple slash line of .274/.339/.453 with 24 home runs and 40 stolen bases while splitting his time between second and short. Villar runs well, walks at an acceptable 8.8 percent rate for his career, and his bat carries enough thunder to boost the Reds lineup. That is, if he presents closer to the 2019 version of himself (.179 ISO) than the 2020 version (.059 ISO). Generally speaking, that’s the biggest question facing Villar ahead of 2021. As he approaches his age-30 season, Villar boasts a 96 wRC+ for his career, but he could use a season of reputation rehabilitation after struggling to a 66 wRC+ in 207 plate appearances split between the Marlins and Blue Jays in 2020.