That trade worked out OK for both sides. But, while he looked just as ready to contribute from the look of his 2011 Bowman Chrome card with the Astros, Villar got off to a slow start with his new team in his first two stints in 2013 and 2014. But, he started putting things together in 2015, when he was traded after the season to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Cy Sneed.
It wouldn’t exactly be a trade the Astros would regret. Of course, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman would shine for the Astros. While Cy Sneed had a decent 2019 MLB debut and is still part of the Astros plans, Villar exploded in 2016 for the Brewers. But Villar put up impressive numbers for the Brew Crew: 19 HR and 62 SB with a decent 285.369.457 slash line. Unfortunately, Villar stumbled in 2017 and wasn’t much better in 2018 until the Trade Deadline.
In one of the best trades the Orioles made in a long time, the Brewers and O’s swapped second baseman in a classic “change-of-scenery” trade. The guy the Orioles gave up, Jonathan Schoop, was a disaster in Milwaukee before becoming a free agent at season’s end. Schoop would turn things around in Minnesota in 2019, but of course, that still left the Brewers on the losing end of this trade.
Villar would finish 2018 well for the Orioles and turn in a career year with the O’s in 2019. It wasn’t completely out of nowhere. Villar had a strong breakout year in 2016 with the Brewers with 19 HR and 62 SB (77.55% success rate.) He has just the 2020 season left to play before reaching free agency. The question was how much of it will he spend with the Orioles? It turns out it will be none of it.
Jonathan Villar Goes to Miami
Steamer 2020 Projection .261/.330/.422, 20 HR, 82 R, 70 RBI, 32 SB
The Marlins made a shrewd move, giving up just a potential backend starter for the rights to Villar in 2020. While at first glance it seems like a strange move, there’s a lot of sense in it. It was a clearly spendthrift move by the Orioles, but the Marlins clearly saw his value. Not only is he instantly one of the Marlins best players, but he helps solidify an uncertain second base and shortstop situation. It’s also likely he plays some third base for Miami, as well.
Being that it’s a walk year for the infielder with a great power/speed skill set, many teams would be happy to have him. It would certainly be good for his “hobby cred” to go to a contender. It’s likely the Marlins are taking this into account - thinking they can get someone better than who they gave up in this deal at the Trade Deadline.
In the meantime, the Marlins get a good player and don’t really mind his salary to keep an improving team respectable. The Marlins also picked up Jesus Aguilar, so this is a team that may not be trying to contend, but it is trying to move forward. Also, while it may seem cliche, Villar and Aguilar could serve as mentors for the Marlins’ young talent like Isan Diaz, Harold Ramirez, Lewis Brinson, and others.
While Villar’s first rookie was the aforementioned 2010 Bowman Chrome, his first auto - with the Astros - was in 2011 Bowman Chrome. You can get the autos for under $5, and even graded ones under $20. He’s a nice potential mid-season flip, if he can put up another 20 HR/30 SB-plus season worth of production.
If Villar continues to put up his 2019 level of production, that would be helpful in getting the Marlins to trade him to a contender. As it stands, if they hold him all year, they probably won’t offer him a qualifying offer after the 2020 season, meaning no draft pick compensation. So, whatever they get in return at this point is a bonus. But for Villar, a move to a contender would be good for both him and his cards. As it is, he’s probably better off in Miami anyway, where he’s definitely wanted.