Man, some folks really get into the Oscars. I just wish someone had told Christian Villanueva that “break a leg” isn’t supposed to be taken literally. But when the minor league third baseman landed awkwardly after jumping up to (Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) “get to da choppah,” his right fibula was not up to the task.
“He’s going to be out for an extended period of time,” Joe Maddon explained Sunday. “It’s just really unfortunate. This kid came in ready to go. He made a great impression on us at the end of last season – a very good infielder and he was starting to hit.”
On the surface, this might not seem like a very big deal. Kris Bryant isn’t going anywhere and the Cubs already have a capable backup in Javier Baez. But Villanueva has proven himself to be a capable, though maybe not spectacular, corner man and has even displayed a little pop, hitting 20 home runs last season between AA Tennessee (2) and AAA Iowa (18). He was expected to anchor the I-Cubs lineup and all accounts had the 24-year-old showing further progress this spring.
“Our guys spoke really highly of him last year,” Maddon continued. “But they were talking even more glowingly this year about the advances he had made.”
An injury like this is deleterious to both Villanueva and to the Cubs organization, particularly as they move forward into this next phase of growth. The impact to the player himself is obvious, as this sets him back both physically and developmentally. As for the team, many of us have been waiting for the time when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would begin to parlay some of the redundant talent they’ve built up into players who better fit their system’s weaknesses.
I apologize if I’m dehumanizing things to an extent, but I’m looking at this strategy strictly from a business perspective. It’s possible that Christian Villanueva could have provided some value to the big league club, but it’s more likely he’d sweeten the deal if the Cubs looked to acquire an arm. In that, he’s much like Dan Vogelbach, a guy who’s been a great fit for the farm system but who doesn’t appear to have much of a future in Chicago.
For his sake, I hope Villanueva is able to rehab this injury fully and get back to the field this season. Whether he contributes to the Cubs directly or as part of a trade (which he already has once, having come over as part of the return for Ryan Dempster), the main concern at this point is that the kid gets healthy. This is really awful timing, given that it comes as hope and excitement are in full bloom, but it should also mean Villanueva at least has a shot at returning in 2016.
Mejorate pronto, Christian.