NY Mets: Will Jonathan Villar be back in Flushing next year?
By Mason Smoller
All season long, the New York Mets have been battling injuries. It has been one of the many storylines of their 2021 season. Oh, what this team could have been if healthy…
Yet, one of the “bright” spots for the team has been the performance of infielder Jonathan Villar. Signed as a depth piece late in the off-season, the Mets were hoping for Villar to provide a spark off the bench when needed. Except, they could not have foreseen how often that would be.
Given his play in 2021, the question now becomes is he a guy to keep around beyond his one-year deal? Or rather, would he even want to return to Queens next season?
Let’s take a look at what it would take to bring back the most productive “-illar” on the team…
The cost for the Mets to retain Jonathan Villar
Back in February, the Mets and Villar agreed to a one=year, $3.5-million deal. With guys like J.D. Davis and Francisco Lindor in the everyday lineup, Villar was behind in the pecking order. Even at second base, he was blocked by Jeff McNeil.
That was only until the injuries and the slumps began. Davis was banged up for months, giving Villar regular playtime at the hot corner. Then Lindor got hurt, leaving Villar to be the next best option.
As a bench player thrown into the fire, Villar has been one of the Mets most consistent players. In over 100 games played, Villar is second on the team in home runs, tied-fifth in wins above replacement, and third in hits. Simply put, he has been more than just a spark off the bench.
Chances are, if the Mets were to look to retain Villar, he could ask for a raise. After all, part of the reason the Mets got him so cheap was his underwhelming play in the COVID-19 shortened season in 2020.
Although he will be 31-years-old next year, Villar is still a productive player who can play every day if asked. And that is the type of player that every single MLB team wants.
Roster construct makes things complicated
What is going to make re-signing Villar tricky is the current construct of the roster entering next season. At Villar’s positions (second, third, and short), the Mets already have their everyday starters under contract.
At second base, Robinson Cano will be back from his one-year suspension. Playing shortstop is going to be a healthy Francisco Lindor following his chaotic first year in Queens. And at third very well may be a big-time free agent addition, Jeff McNeil, or an ultimately retained J.D. Davis.
Not to mention, Luis Guillorme continues to get on base when healthy. Between 2020 and 2021, Guillorme owns a batting average of over .300 and an on-base percentage over .400. In other words, he too deserves more reps and is four years younger than Villar.
Don’t forget about the incoming prospects
If the idea of retaining Villar was not complicated enough as is on the 40-man roster, the possible arrival of the Mets next stars makes things tricky. Taking a look at the Mets top 30 prospects, four of their top 10 play infield positions that Villar do.
Brett Baty, the Mets second-ranked prospect, resides at third base and has begun playing in the outfield too. With the outlook of being “the guy” at the hot corner for the future, Baty is unlikely to be unseated once he is ready for the bigs.
And the same can be said about number three prospect Ronny Mauricio. Lining up at shortstop, which will be manned by Lindor for the next decade, means he will need to switch positions. With second and third base being the most logical options.
Meanwhile, the team’s sixth-ranked prospect Mark Vientos has been slugging at third base in the minors this season. Their tenth-ranked prospect, Carlos Cortes, plays second base and the outfield. Clearly, the Mets have plenty of younger options with more upside that could arrive within the year that play Villar’s positions.
Therefore, as attached as Mets fans have become to Villar, the fact of the matter is the odds of him returning next season appear slim. He is going to be 31, is coming off of a solid year, and will have a market full of contenders looking to solidify their benches.
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With the expectation this team will be healthy and getting contributions from their prospects, 2021 could wind up being Villar’s lone year in a Mets uniform.