Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…
- As recent extension talks would seem to indicate, the Brewers have earmarked Jonathan Villar as a long-term part of their future, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. In turning down the extension (reportedly a three-year deal over his arbitration seasons worth in the range of $20MM), Villar is showing confidence that he can match his 2016 breakout year and put himself in line for a bigger payday down the road. Haudricourt notes that Villar and the Brewers have yet to agree on a dollar figure for his 2017 contract. While this has no bearing on Villar’s status since the Brewers control him through 2020, it can be seen as a sign of good negotiating faith if a club rewards a pre-arbitration player with a salary well above the league minimum in the wake of a good season. (For more on pre-arb salaries, check out this piece from MLBTR’s Jeff Todd from March 2015.)
- The December 2011 trade that sent DJ LeMahieu and Tyler Colvin from the Cubs to the Rockies in exchange for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers is revisited by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. It was the first deal made by Theo Epstein’s front office in Chicago and, in hindsight, one of the rare misses for the Cubs in the Epstein era. “Sometimes, you show up somewhere and you can make a mistake in your first off-season by not being as familiar as you should be with a player, because you haven’t seen him yourself in person,” Epstein said. “We felt like there were good bat-to-ball skills there [with LeMahieu], and sound defense. From the reports, we weren’t sold on his bat speed, didn’t think there’d be a lot of power. But he’s certainly proving us wrong. The bat-to-ball is really elite, and he’s made himself into one of the better defensive second basemen in the league.” LeMahieu, of course, developed into a regular for the Rockies at second and enjoyed a breakout year in 2016, hitting .348/.416/.495 and winning the NL batting title.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington hopes to continues in his job for years to come, and tells Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that still enjoys working within a medium-payroll framework. “I’ve only lived in small markets. I thrive on that. I love the challenge of working with a group that has to be creative and innovative and more efficient,” Huntington said. “And while the margin for error is a challenge at times, I don’t wake up and think about (a big-market job) because that’s not energy spent on my family and spent on finding the best way to do the job here.” Huntington is entering the last guaranteed year of his contract, with the Bucs holding a club option on his services for 2018.
- In other NL Central news from earlier today on MLBTR, the Cardinals are interested in top Cuban outfield prospect Luis Robert.