A new CBA is among us and the infamous MLB lockout is finally over. This means that free agency is officially ON. And with the Astros having some voids to fill, they can get creative enough to address the open market if they can’t bring back Carlos Correa or sign Trevor Story as his replacement. Well below those two names, there’s an undervalued yet interesting player the Astros might eventually take a look at: Jonathan Villar.
Villar spent the entire 2021 season as a member of the New York Mets, under a $3.55MM deal plus incentives. The 30-year-old veteran provided a 1.7 WAR thanks to his contributions across 142 games. He compiled 113 hits along with 18 doubles, two triples, 18 home runs, 42 runs batted in, and 14 steals. He had a .249/.322/.416 slash line.
Villar, who made his MLB debut and played for Houston from 2013 to 2015, can be a better offensive player than Aledmys Díaz, has been more durable than the Cuban, and, in general, he’s a threat on the basepaths — an added value for an Astros’ lineup that lacks speed. Besides, not only can he play decent second, shortstop, and third base but he also has experience covering the outfield.
With a lot of uncertainty around the Astros’ left infield side, the Dominican speedster can be an asset for them. At the end of the day, Alex Bregman has had recent problems with injuries and Díaz tends to be a little inconsistent at the plate.
I know the Astros’ wish entering 2022 if they cannot re-sign Correa is that prospect Jeremy Peña becomes their everyday shortstop at some point and helps forget the fact that Carlos would be gone. But not every prospect can take the MLB by storm, and Villar could help Houston in case Peña needs more development in the Minors.
When healthy and focused, Villar can offer an incredibly charismatic presence in the dugout and be a pretty explosive player, especially if you compare his salary to what he can give you on the field. Here are some stats to know the kind of player Villar has been in recent history:
· More than 30 doubles twice: 38 in 2016, 33 in 2019
· More than 15 home runs thrice: 19 in 2016, 24 in 2019, 18 in 2021
· More than 120 hits thrice: 168 in 2016, 121 in 2018, 176 in 2019
· 111 runs scored in 2019 for the Orioles
· Led the league in stolen bases in 2016 with the Brewers (62)
The best part of the story is that signing Villar won’t leave the Astros penniless. His last deal was signed for 1yr/$3.5MM, so Jonathan could come cheap. Besides, the vast number of Latinos playing for Houston can be an attractive factor for him to come to H-Town. Will we see Villar wearing an Astros uniform? Let’s wait and see.