Baltimore Orioles: Could An NL West Team Come For Jonathan Villar?
By Nick Stevens
A deal between the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres could be a win-win situation for both franchises.
The offseason may be quiet in terms of the Baltimore Orioles acquiring high-profile free agents, but as general manager Mike Elias has stated in the last few days, tough roster decisions fueled by budget restrictions could lead to an unpopular move or two in the coming weeks.
When Mike Elias reiterated this sentiment last week on 105.7 The Fan’s Hot Stove show, it’s hard to imagine him referring to anyone other than Jonathan Villar here.
Personally, I don’t like the idea of the Orioles balking at a projected $10 million for the lone baserunning threat and leader in Wins Above Replacement (4.0) in 2019, but I understand the need to move him. Now, let’s just hope there’s one general manager crazy enough to put up an offer Mike Elias can’t refuse.
GMs from all 30 franchises are currently in Scottsdale, Arizona for the annual general manager meetings and one GM, in particular, has reportedly arrived ready to make plenty of deals. AJ Preller, meet Mike Elias.
Could the San Diego Padres come calling for Jonathan Villar this week or in the near future? According to San Diego beat writer Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Preller is ready to make deals, has enough prospect capital to acquire essentially anyone he wants, is ready to move some of these prospect pieces, and could be in the market for a second baseman.
From his latest piece, Acee expresses the need for San Diego to acquire a left-handed bat to improve one of the league’s worst offenses against right-handed pitching. While he believes that could mean a left-handed hitting outfielder, the Padres are also looking to upgrade at second base.
"It has become apparent to the Padres that Luis Urias is not the long-term answer at second base, and the multiple players in the Padres’ farm system who could end up there are a year or more away from the majors. So acquiring a veteran as an interim starter is possible."
Urias has been ranked as one of the top second base prospects in all of baseball with a hit tool so impressive that Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser previously stated that Urias could wind up winning multiple batting titles in the big leagues.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t been given a full opportunity in San Diego and hasn’t impressed during his limited playing time. In 71 games last season, Urias hit .223 with just 13 extra-base hits and a wRC+ of 81. It’s way too premature to give up on Urias, but the pressure is on in San Diego after recent comments from San Diego ownership to win now or “heads will roll.”
If AJ Preller wants to win now, Ian Kinsler and Greg Garcia are far from the answer at second base. Should the Padres trade Urias this winter, Jonathan Villar could fit in nicely.
Villar slashed .280/.354/.465 vs RHP in 2019 with 15 home runs and 24 doubles. San Diego hitters slashed .234/.301/.404 against RHP. All were among the worst results in the majors. Villar would have also led the Padres roster in Wins Above Replacement last season. Fernando Tatis Jr.(3.6) and Manny Machado (3.1) were the offensive leaders for the Padres.
A deal between the two teams could be a win-win situation. The Orioles can move on from Villar’s salary and improve the farm system, while San Diego gets their veteran infielder for prospects likely to walk away for nothing in the upcoming Rule 5 draft or sit behind a list of other prospects in the system.
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San Diego’s farm system is deep, arguably the deepest in baseball. Top 30 guys like IF Esteury Ruiz and OF Buddy Reed must either be protected by November 20th or be left vulnerable to the Rule 5 draft, along with intriguing prospects who would surely slot into the Baltimore Orioles Top 30 list like IF Eguy Rosario and OF Jorge Ona.
There’s plenty of second-tier prospect talent San Diego could put together to acquire Villar that would also increase the talent pool in Baltimore. The Orioles system is greatly improved, but you can find a handful of guys outside of San Diego’s Top 30 list who would become Top 15/20 in the Orioles system.
No official talks between the two organizations have been reported, but from the news coming out of Baltimore and San Diego, a deal between AJ Preller and Mike Elias seems like a fit.
With the General Manager meetings underway, stay tuned to BirdsWatcher.com and @BirdsWatcherFS on Twitter for the latest Baltimore Orioles news and reactions.