The New York Mets have signed infielder Jonathan Villar to a one-year, $3.55 million deal plus incentives, as first reported by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
After missing out on star free-agent starting pitcher Trevor Bauer on Friday, a source told amNewYork Metro that the Mets’ free-agent priority would be shifting to depth both on the bench and on the mound and Villar certainly fits that billing.
The 29-year-old will fill a super-utility role with the Mets having shown an ability to play shortstop, second base, and third base over his nine-year MLB career — although he only has a positive defensive-runs-saved mark at second base (+1) in 358 career games at the position.
Regardless it makes him a switch-hitting backup option for both Jeff McNeil at second base and JD Davis at third, both of whom carry substantial defensive question marks heading into the 2021 season. Luis Guillorme, who possesses a plus glove and had an impressive showing at the dish in 2020, will still be in the mix as a left-handed bat off the bench and can provide relief at shortstop behind Francisco Lindor.
Villar also provides a substantial boost in team speed, something the Mets have lacked in recent years. From 2016-2019, he averaged 40 stolen bases per year, including a league-leading 62 five years ago with the Milwaukee Brewers. Only Billy Hamilton has more stolen bases than Villar’s 176 over the last five seasons.
There is also the promise that he can provide a little extra pop off the Mets’ bench as well, although he struggled mightily in the shortened 60-game season last year, slashing .232/.301/.292 with two home runs and 15 RBI in 52 games with the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays.
However, in 2019 with the Baltimore Orioles, Villar slashed .274/.339/.453 with a career-high 24 home runs, 73 RBI, and 40 stolen bases.