There’s no real argument to make against bringing Jonathan Villar back to the New York Mets in 2022. Signed for depth purposes in 2021, he ended up playing in 142 games and stepping up to the plate 505 times. He delivered a .249/.322/.416 slash line and finished third on the team with 18 home runs.
Villar was a godsend for the Mets’ hopes at competing last year. Whether he was at second base, third base, or shortstop, he helped steer the ship when it should have crashed into the rocks.
Like one of the team’s other superb signings last winter, Aaron Loup, Villar inked only a one-year deal with the Mets. Heading back to free agency, a reunion with him only makes sense under one condition.
The Mets can’t re-sign Jonathan Villar with the intention of making him their starting third baseman
Villar had a nice year in 2021. It was more than nice. It was “drive you to the airport when you haven’t spoken in a few months” level of kindness.
Without him, we might have seen a sub-.200 hitter playing regularly. This would have meant more pitchers batting eighth and the idea of doing this frustrates me to no end.
Prior to joining the Mets, Villar was on a yearly streak of being an everyday player in major league baseball. Dating back to 2016 with the Milwaukee Brewers where he broke through, he was always getting the bulk of the work at one position or another or a couple of them. In 2019, he played all 162 games for the Baltimore Orioles. Only because of his down year in 2020 was he forced into settling on a one-year “prove it” deal with the Mets.
Villar may not have convinced everyone he belongs as a starter again. There are weaknesses in his game for sure. However, a platoon situation or a starting role with a team less hopeful to win it all does make sense.
On the Mets, they need to view Villar a little differently.
The kind of role I would like to see Jonathan Villar have with the Mets
Let’s say the Mets do re-sign Villar. Great! Let’s go to war.
What role makes the most sense for him? If it’s exactly what he was originally brought in to be, I’m totally cool with it. I’ll even upgrade him to a platoon player with a chance to win a gig.
Third base is not a position you want to take lightly. It’s important both from a defensive and offensive standpoint. Unfortunately, Villar isn’t quite up to snuff in either regard.
Villar more ideal for the middle infield. You can get away with a weaker hitting second baseman or shortstop as long as they play good defense. Villar has never been spectacular on this side of the ball. His greatest strength has been his offense, notably his speed on the base paths.
The Mets have a lot of directions they can go at third base. Do they sign Kris Bryant? Do they make a trade for someone like Jose Ramirez? Do they hand the spot to Jeff McNeil?
Re-signing Villar with the intention of starting him at third base can be costly to the club. It puts them at a disadvantage defensively. It also doesn’t make them too spectacular of an offensive club.
We looked at Villar positively this past season because of where expectations began. He wasn’t mean to play as often as he did. Because we did see him in all but 20 games and he produced at the plate more than many of the regulars, he got a thumb up from the fans. He can certainly replicate this again in 2022 but it’s not exactly a guarantee.
One option we can look at is to begin the year with Villar as the starting third baseman with the intention that it won’t last all season long. Incoming prospects Brett Baty and Mark Vientos may push him onto the bench.
For this to work, the Mets may need to sign him to yet another one-year deal or at least not pay him much money over the course of his contract. Is Villar willing to settle for this kind of contract? Are the Mets interested in overpaying for a guy they intend to use for depth not long after?
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The Mets could definitely use Villar back on the roster in 2022. In too big of a role, it can handicap them quickly.