Chicago Cubs

Cubs shifting to Jonathan Villar as answer at second base

The Chicago Cubs need some help at second base, and their focus has moved to Jonathan Villar.

With Ben Zobrist out of the mix for awhile, Addison Russell recently being sent down and Daniel Descalso on the IL, the Chicago Cubs are in the market for a second baseman. According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, they have discussed Jonathan Villar with the Baltimore Orioles.

Kubatko goes on to cite a source that said there doesn’t appear to be a match, but that could be a leverage play coming from an Orioles-focused source.

Villar has played 75 games at second base and 55 at shortstop for the Orioles this year, with a .262/.326/.421 slash-line, 13 home runs, 47 RBI, 22 doubles and 22 stolen bases (in 28 attempts). The Cubs as a team have 29 stolen bases so far this season, on 46 attempts, so Villar automatically boosts their speed profile. Villar has multiple hits in four straight games entering Monday, going 10-for-18 with two home runs, five RBI and nine runs scored over that span.

The Cubs have reported interest in acquiring a high-contact hitter, and with a strikeout rate over 24 percent this year and 26.7 percent for his career Villar doesn’t fit that mold. He has primarily hit leadoff for the Orioles this season, with a .225/.295/.339 slash mark over 320 plate appearances, with better results over a small sample out of the No. 2 hole (.379/.455/.690 slash line over 34 plate appearances). That latter sample is something Cubs manager Joe Maddon would be keenly aware of in his lineup construction.

Villar also comes cheaply in terms of salary. He’s making $4.825 million this year ($1.66 million yet to be paid), with a final year of team control via arbitration next year. Baltimore could include some cash in a deal to bolster their return, as they did when they dealt Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox, but the difference in demand between a pitcher and a middle infielder has to be noted.

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The Cubs are in line to get Zobrist back in the coming weeks, as he gets out on a Minor League rehab assignment after a personal absence. So the urgency to add a second baseman may be naturally lessened, but Villar stands as an intriguing fit merely on the prospect of a better lineup around him.

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