Cubs agree to 1-year deal with infielder Villar

March 19th, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- When Cubs manager David Ross fills out his lineup card this season, he wants as many versatile options for multiple positions as possible. The front office has been targeting players with that in mind to build out the depth at Ross' disposal.

That now includes free-agent infielder Jonathan Villar, who signed a one year contract with a mutual option on Saturday. The deal is worth $6 million guaranteed overall, a source told's Mark Feinsand. The deal also includes performances bonuses.

"To be able to match up," Ross said this week, "and find the perfect matchup, is a luxury that most teams don't have. I think the goal is to get as many good players as you possibly can. The more we can bring talent into camp, the better off we're going to be overall, for sure."

Versatility has certainly been a calling card for Villar.

The 30-year-old is a switch-hitter who has produced virtually no platoon split over the course of his career (.733 OPS against lefties, .727 against righties). He also has extensive experience at shortstop (390 career starts), second base (308) and third base (134), while dabbling in the outfield as well. In 2021 with the Mets, Villar spent the majority of his time at the hot corner, but he also played both middle-infield spots.

Villar also offers notable pop at the plate. He has reached double digits in homers in each of the past five full seasons (excluding 2020), averaging 17 in that span. The Dominican Republic native hit a career-high 24 big flies for the 2019 Orioles and added 18 for last year’s Mets, while batting .249/.322/.416 (102 OPS+) over 142 games.

Villar's pact with the Cubs comes with a $4.5 million base salary in '22 with a $10 million mutual option (or $1.5 million buyout) for the '23 season. There is another $500,000 available in incentives this season.

The Cubs currently have Andrelton Simmons and Nico Hoerner in the mix at shortstop, with the high-contact bat of Nick Madrigal at second base. Hoerner is also a plus defender at second, can handle third and may be a backup option for center field.

While the arrival of the designated hitter to the National League will help Ross' ability to mix and match, Villar's best on-field fit would seemingly be at third base. At the hot corner, Villar could split duties with right-handed slugger Patrick Wisdom.

Ross has also noted how he needs to be cognizant this season about the playing time for Hoerner and Madrigal, who were each limited by injuries in 2021. The presence of Simmons and Villar can help the manager balance built-in off-days and matchups.

"All those things come into play, right?" Ross said. "Rest is important in 162, especially in this season with a shortened Spring Training a little bit. And making sure we take care of the young guys -- the history of some of our guys. Keeping them on the field is really important to me.

"We're going to be the best version of us if we keep everybody healthy and be able to keep that flexibility. And then, as things play out and guys are having their seasons and who fits where, I think all those things will become really clear. But flexibility is always nice from my seat."