The Cubs announced on Friday that they have appointed a player Jonathan Villar To commission in order to clear a place in the active list and 40 men to a fellow player David Potwho was returned from the infected list for 60 days.
Villar, 31, signed a one-year, $6 million contract with Cubs this winter following a strong showing with the Mets. The .249/ .322/ .416 Versatile Switch produced Queens’ streak last year (105 wRC+) and carried a .259/ .327/ .408 total batting line from 2018-21. However, the 2022 season in Chicago didn’t go well at all, as Villar limped to the worst performance of his career .222/.271/.327 by making his 166 debut.
Villar’s struggles on the plate stem from a sudden decline in his ability to do just about anything against fast balls. He entered the 2022 season as a career .251 hitter against fastballs, but he’s seen 231 fastballs this season and scored a disastrous .119/.174/.119 hitting streak in his 46 appearances that ended in warmers. There may have been some bad luck from BABIP’s point of view (.217), but Villar also ran into 43.5% of those tablet appearances and scored an 18.2% career swing rate against fast balls – so the poor performance can’t be entirely blamed on small samples Luck racquetball.
The Cubs have used Villar in second base (225 rounds), third base (95 innings) and short (17 rounds) this season, but defensive metrics have fallen on him in all three locations. Villar has never been rated well as a short stop, so it’s no surprise to see sparse use and poor ratings there. However, overall he was a solid enough defender at second base – at least until the 2022 season. In this year’s 225 frames, he posted an amazing -7 defensive points saved and earned a similarly awesome score from Statcast’s Outs Above Average (-5) .
With Villar set to hire, Cubs is actually eating up nearly $3.4 million of his unpaid contract. They will remain in a bind for that money unless another team demands that Villar be excused from concessions or acquire him in a deal – both seem unlikely, given the veterans’ struggles on the board this year. The most likely outcome is that Villar is released and becomes a free agent. At this point, any of the other 29 teams in the league can sign him and they owe him a minimum league pro-rata only for any time he spends on the Major League roster. This amount will be subtracted from what the Cubs owe to Villar.
Butt, 29, is back at the Cubs after missing the entire season so far while recovering from shoulder surgery in November. The player separated his shoulder during a game last May, and while the injury didn’t immediately require surgery, it clearly hindered Bote at the plate. In 327 board appearances, Bote recorded the worst hitting streak of his career .199/.276/0.330. The surgery originally came with an expected recovery period of six months, but Bote’s return is close to eight months from the date of the procedure.
It’s been two tough seasons for Bote, who in 2019 signed an amazing five-year extension that came with a $16 million guarantee. It was a scratch-off for the Cubs even back then, as Bote was a part-time player who rolled out a .239/ .319/ .408 batting streak as a rookie in 2018. The first year of the decade certainly made it seem like a sound investment, as he dropped Bote averaged .257/.362/.422 and was an underrated contributor to the Cubs team that has been in contention for most of the year. He’s only made 0.200/.285/.353 in 472 games since then, although the shoulder injury certainly offers some explanation for last year’s difficulties, at least.
Cubs owes $2.5 million this season and will pay him $4 million and $5.5 million in salaries in 2023 and 2024. They also have a pair of options, the first with $7 million and the second with $7.6 million.
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