The Rundown: Villar Provides Flexibility for FO, Cubs Have Several Rotation Options, Heyward Open to Moving from RF, Phillies Interested in Castellanos

“She said a good day ain’t got no rain. She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed and think of things that might have been.” – Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away

The Cubs signed Jonathan Villar yesterday and, just like the Daniel Norris signing, it represents one of the more underrated additions of the offseason. Though many see Villar as a middle infielder, the truth is he can play many positions and opens up a number of possibilities for the front office. The switch-hitter has a decent combination of speed and power, though he’s not going to steal 60+ bases for Chicago as he did with the Brewers in 2016.

However, Villar’s versatility could make Nico Hoerner available in trade if the Cubs wanted to pursue one of the Athletics’ starters. Hoerner could also be a potential piece if the front office wants to make a play to acquire prospects by taking on one of the Padres’ sinkhole contracts, specifically the one attached to Eric Hosmer.  Though Villar can’t catch, he could offset some of Willson Contreras‘s production, allowing Chicago to trade their star backstop while giving Yan Gomes the full-time catching gig.

Most fans want to know if yesterday’s announcement takes the Cubs out of the sweepstakes for Carlos Correa. On the surface, it seems like Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins are moving on from any previous dalliance they may have had with the star shortstop. Chicago now has about a dozen middle infielders in camp, and David Bote is still with the team even though he’s rehabbing offseason shoulder surgery. Ian Happ is also a middle infielder by trade, though he is now primarily an outfielder. Villar makes Happ expendable, too.

Still, all hope may not be lost on those who are still pining for the Cubs to sign Correa. In a piece for The Athletic ($), baseball insider Ken Rosenthal said talks between Correa and the Astros aren’t making any progress and some members of Hoston’s front office remain pessimistic that a deal can be struck. That leaves the Cubs as one of Correa’s only verified suitors, though Rosenthal mentioned the Orioles could be a possibility. We’ll probably learn of a “mystery team” entering the bidding process at any moment, so keep your eyes peeled to Jon Heyman’s Twitter account.

It’s doubtful the Cubs are done shopping baseball’s open market, and though the signings of pitchers Mychal Givens and Robert Gsellman don’t inspire confidence in a potential Correa announcement, Trevor Story, Nick Castellanos, Jorge Soler, Michael Conforto, and Tommy Pham are all still available. That said, Hoyer is unlikely to get too exuberant and will only pursue premium players if their prices slide back toward a level that falls into his comfort zone.

“In my career, we’ve been around a number of teams that were really special,” the president of baseball operations said recently. “We’ve built that once here, and we want to build that again. So, we’ll try to thread that needle as well as possible. We want to make moves to compete, but we’re not going to make moves that are inconsistent with what we’ve done over the last 16 months.”

The bottom line is that Hoyer may feel more at ease paying down the $50 million or so owed to Hosmer if the Padres attach a young starter like Chris Paddack and minor leaguers Robert Hassell or Luis Campusano to a deal for Contreras and another payer, possibly Happ. He could then move Hoerner to the A’s in a deal to the Rays or A’s to acquire somebody like Tyler Glasnow or Sean Manaea.

More than anything, the Villar deal gives the Cubs a lot of options and flexibility. The switch-hitting veteran will quickly become a fan favorite here just as he was in Milwaukee. He’ll be one of Chicago’s better players in 2022 and a potential trade candidate. Though Correa still remains a possibility, Hoyer and Hawkins now have a number of avenues to explore to fill out the remaining spots on their roster.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

He doesn’t play with the reckless abandon that Javier Báez does, but Villar makes things happen on the basepaths.

Friday Stove

After signing Kyle Scharber the other day, the Phillies are reportedly interested in signing Nick Castellanos, defense be damned.

The Rockies intend to play Kris Bryant in left field, though manager Bud Black says they will take advantage of the former Cub’s versatility.

After a number of offseason moves, the Blue Jays may be a slight favorite to win the AL East. Only the Orioles can be counted out in 2022.

Rob Manfred said his next major initiative is building a more positive relationship with the MLBPA.

The league announced it has scheduled an additional 30 doubleheaders and plans to end the regular season on October 5.

MLB is dropping regular COVID-19 testing in an attempt to ease restrictions heading into the new season.

Extra Innings

Baseball is back, baby!

They Said It

  • “Adding talent is always important. To be able to find the perfect matchup, that’s 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.”David Ross
  • “[Steele’s] stuff is electric. When you watch him pitch, as you watch him evolve, as you watch him mature, the way he goes about his business, the way he attacks hitters, being able to see what he’s capable of last year was really encouraging.” – Ross

Friday Walk-Up Song

Only Time Will Tell by Asia – Surely Correa has to sign somewhere soon. He’s holding up the market for Trevor Story and Cubs fans need closure.

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