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Jonathan Villar
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Baseball Daily Dose

Bizarre Villar Saga Continues

by George Bissell
Updated On: November 29, 2019, 1:08 am ET

After failing to find a trade partner, the Orioles placed shortstop Jonathan Villar on outright waivers Wednesday afternoon in an effort to expedite a potential deal before Monday’s non-tender deadline. If he goes unclaimed on waivers, he’ll likely opt for free agency, at which point he’ll be able to sign a multi-year deal with any team. The 28-year-old infielder posted a robust .274/.339/.453 triple-slash line with 111 runs scored, 24 home runs, 73 RBI and 40 stolen bases across 714 plate appearances in 162 games last season. He also became only the fourth hitter in the last decade to record 20-plus home runs and 40-plus stolen bases in the same season. 

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Despite his prolific power and speed production, it’s not a complete shock that the rebuilding, cost-cutting Orioles have expressed zero interest in paying Villar the estimated $10-to-11 million he will likely earn in his final year of salary arbitration before he’s eligible for free agency next offseason. However, it’s utterly perplexing there doesn’t appear to be any interest in his services -- even for one year at that projected salary -- among the other 29 franchises. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported prior to the veteran infielder being placed on waivers on Wednesday that the Orioles have been “unsuccessful so far” in their attempts to move him. The clock is ticking and it seems extremely unlikely that they will find a trade partner before next week’s deadline.

It’s possible that Villar -- who was valued at four wins above replacement by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs in 2019 -- will be claimed off waivers. If that occurs, his new team would be on the hook for the same projected salary in arbitration. Still, it’s a relatively low-risk one-year gamble, especially for a veteran infielder who is a serviceable defender at both middle infield positions. This saga is far from over. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on this developing situation in the coming days. 

 

Grisham, Urias Headline Challenge Trade

The Brewers and Padres completed a rare early-offseason upside-for-upside challenge trade, headlined by the swapping of two promising young players -- Trent Grisham and Luis Urias -- and a pair of veteran starting pitchers. Here’s the full deal:

Padres acquired OF Trent Grisham, RHP Zach Davies and a player to be named later or cash considerations in exchange for 2B Luis Urias, LHP Eric Lauer and a player to be named later or cash considerations … 

The clear headliners in the pre-Thanksgiving swap represent a pair of toolsy former top prospects, yet to establish themselves as everyday starters at the highest level. Grisham is an intriguing lottery ticket for the Padres, who struggled to piece together a consistent outfield rotation last season. The 23-year-old cobbled together an impressive breakout performance in the upper minors of the Brewers’ system, hitting .300/.407/.603 with 71 runs scored, 26 home runs, 12 stolen bases and a 72/67 K/BB ratio across 97 games between Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A San Antonio prior to making his big-league debut on August 1. He proceeded to hold his own at the highest level, posting a pedestrian .231/.328/.410 triple-slash line with six homers, 24 RBI and one stolen base in 183 major-league plate appearances. He projects as a viable corner outfielder and should provide the Padres a potential cost-controlled, long-term starter. 

“Left-handed-hitting center-field possibilities that can get on base at a high clip, there’s just not a lot of those in the minor leagues,” Padres' GM A.J. Preller told reporters on Wednesday. “We felt like we filled a need for a need and it’s a good baseball trade for both clubs.”

The Padres also received a potential mid-rotation starter in Davies, who has two years of team control remaining. He should immediately step into their rotation as a stop-gap solution until top prospects like MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino are ready. The 26-year-old soft-tossing veteran right-hander recorded a 3.55 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 102/51 K/BB ratio across 159 2/3 innings of work in 31 starts.

As for the Brewers, who have fallen just short of reaching the World Series each of the last two seasons, this deal hinges almost entirely on Urias reaching his full potential. Clearly, the Padres weren’t overly optimistic regarding his long-term value as evidenced by their decision to jettison him to Milwaukee. However, he’s arguably the most intriguing long-term asset, especially from a fantasy standpoint, involved in this deal by a considerable margin. On the heels of a dismal campaign by Orlando Arcia (and a complete lack of organizational depth at the middle infield spots), the Brewers will likely give him an opportunity to stick as their everyday shortstop and may be able to unlock some of his previously untapped potential. 

“We did not have good shortstop production last year,” Brewers’ GM David Stearns told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday. “We have been open about that. For us to ultimately do what we want to do and be the type of team we want to be, production from that position needs to improve.”

Urias has displayed a preternatural ability to make contact throughout his minor-league career, but has yet to experience even a modicum of success at the major-league level. He owns a .221/.318/.331 triple-slash line with six home runs in 302 career big-league plate appearances. The central question is whether Urias, who’s listed at five-foot-nine, is whether he can develop consistent over-the-fence power at the highest level. He’s struggled to hit the ball with authority, registering an average exit velocity (85.7 mph) below league-average, during his brief stints with the Padres. However, we’ve witnessed plenty of position players morph into elite power contributors, despite their smaller stature, in recent years including Francisco Lindor, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez. Perhaps a shift to a certifiable hitters’ paradise in Miller Park will pay immediate dividends. In Lauer, the Brewers add a reliable innings-eater and another left-hander to their rotation mix. They experienced plenty of success with southpaws’ Brent Suter and Drew Pomeranz as relievers in the second half of last season, so there’s a chance that Lauer could develop into a weapon out of the bullpen. The 24-year-old southpaw owns an underwhelming 4.40 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and 238/97 K/BB ratio across 261 2/3 career major-league innings. 

Padres Ink Pomeranz

The Padres continued their offseason overhaul by signing left-handed reliever Drew Pomeranz to a four-year, $34 million contract on Wednesday. The 31-year-old southpaw will receive an $8 million signing bonus on top of a $4 million salary in 2020, and then he'll make $6 million in 2020 before making $8 million in the last two years of the deal. He was a revelation for the Brewers as his raw stuff played up out of their bullpen after being acquired at the trade deadline in late July. He posted a sublime 2.39 ERA and 45/8 K/BB ratio across 26 1/3 innings over the final two months of the regular season. He’s expected to serve as the primary set-up man for All-Star closer Kirby Yates, but there is an outside possibility that he could be stretched back out into a starter again, if needed.

Gibson Lands In Texas

The Rangers augmented their starting rotation by inking free agent right-hander Kyle Gibson to a three-year, $30 million deal on Wednesday. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the deal will be finalized after he completes a physical. The 32-year-old veteran right-hander, who missed a chunk of last season due to ulcerative colitis, recorded a 4.84 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 160/56 K/BB ratio across 160 innings of work in 34 appearances (29 starts). From a fantasy perspective, Gibson projects as a top 75-to-100 starting pitcher in 2020. 

 

American League Quick Hits: Jorge Polanco underwent surgery last Friday for a right ankle impingement. He is expected to resume baseball activities in six weeks and should be 100 percent by the start of spring training in February … White Sox’ 2B Yolmer Sanchez has elected to become a free agent … Rays acquired 1B/OF Brian O'Grady from the Reds for a player to be named later and cash considerations … Rays designated 1B Jesus Aguilar for assignment …  Mariners signed 3B/1B Patrick Wisdom to a one-year contract … Rangers signed INF/OF Rob Refsnyder to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Mariners have agreed to terms with RHP Carl Edwards on a one-year, $950,000 contract … MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Wednesday that they are “working to trade” right-hander Dylan Bundy … Feinsand also reported Wednesday that Royals’ reliever Tim Hill is drawing “plenty of trade interest.” … Royals sent C Nick Dini, RHP Conner Greene and RHP Arnaldo Hernandez  outright to Triple-A Omaha … Rangers sent RHP Taylor Guerrieri outright to Triple-A Nashville … Red Sox sent LHP Brian Johnson outright to Triple-A Pawtucket … Yankees’ 1B Greg Bird has elected to become a free agent … Former Blue Jays’ RHP Nick Kingham has signed with SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization.

National League Quick Hits: Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday that the Pirates have hired Derek Shelton to be their new manager … Jeff Passan of ESPN reported Wednesday that the Nationals have re-signed Yan Gomes to a two-year, $10 million contract … Rockies signed RHP Jose Mujica to a one-year contract and designated RHP Wes Parsons for assignment … Dodgers signed C Rocky Gale to a minor league contract … Cubs claimed LHP C.D. Pelham off waivers from the Rangers … Pirates sent RHP Montana DuRapau, RHP Luis Escobar and LHP Williams Jerez outright to Triple-A Indianapolis … Padres designated RHP Pedro Avila for assignment.