In the final countdown to spring training, as they put the finishing touches on their roster, the Mets added another bench piece Tuesday, a source said: utilityman Jonathan Villar.
Villar’s deal is reportedly for one year and $3.55 million, with incentives that allow him to make more.
For the Mets, the switch-hitting Villar is particularly useful because of his versatility. He mostly has played shortstop and second base but has dabbled at third base, centerfield and leftfield. Combine that with his middling hitting ability and proclivity for stealing bases and you get a solid bench player for most any team.
This is the Mets’ second deal for a backup player in three days, following their agreement with outfielder Albert Almora Jr. on Sunday. Neither contract is official yet. The 40-man roster is full, so the Mets will need to clear two spaces to make room for Almora and Villar.
Villar, 29, had a down 2020 with the Marlins and Blue Jays, hitting .232 with a .301 on-base percentage and .292 slugging percentage. But he still tallied 16 steals, which was twice as many as the Mets’ leader, Andres Gimenez, who was sent to Cleveland as part of the Francisco Lindor/Carlos Carrasco trade last month.
Villar stole 40 bases (and hit 24 homers) while playing in 162 games for the Orioles in 2019, and in 2016 with Milwaukee he led the majors with 62 steals.
Across eight seasons, Villar has a .259/.327/.400 slash line and a career steals success rate of 79%, which is good.
News of the Mets/Villar agreement came a day after MLB and the MLB Players' Association finalized their health and safety protocols for 2021. They kept the rule that automatically puts a runner at second base to begin every extra inning. Villar profiles as the Mets’ best pinch-running option, particularly given his defensive versatility.
The Mets head into spring training with much competition for bench jobs. In addition to Villar and Almora, they have catcher Tomas Nido, DH/first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez and whichever of J.D. Davis and Luis Guillorme is not playing third base on a given day.
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