Milwaukee Brewers Reportedly “Floated” Extension to Jonathan Villar–Should He Have Taken It?

The Milwaukee Brewers are in the midst of a rebuild, and after the quietly solid season that Jonathan Villar put up in 2016 with them, the club reportedly “floated” a contract extension to the young infielder.

Jon Heyman of FanRag noted yesterday that the Milwaukee Brewers “floated an extension in the $20 million range for Villar, but he passed for now.” There was no mention of how long they were looking to lock him up for, but with this offseason being the final one before he is arbitration eligible, he is already under club control through the 2020 season. A $20M deal could have added one more season to that deal, but likely not much more.

Villar, set to enter his age 26 season in 2017, was acquired from the Houston Astros last offseason for minor league pitcher Cy Sneed and earned his first consistent playing time with the Brew Crew. Over the course of 156 games played, Villar led baseball in stolen bases with 62 while also being thrown out 18 times for roughly a 78 percent success rate.

It’s also worth noting that Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted this out of Heyman’s report:

This isn’t to say that Heyman is wrong, just that the club and the player didn’t want to talk about the topic at that time.

Back to the proposal. $20M seems a little low, but considering how arbitration works, and that somehow Dellin Betances lost his first arbitration case over the weekend while he has proven to be one of the better relievers in baseball, could put the offer closer to fair (in this system) than not.

Then again, the system is relatively broken, and if the Brewers were to get one extra year of production out of Villar at the value he was worth last season (3.0 fWAR, which translates to about $24M), then this would be a steal of a deal for Milwaukee, even if that one year was the only year they were paying him for. With the offer also eating up his arbitration years, it becomes a no-brainer for the club.

Villar is wisely holding out and betting on himself to have another productive season, which could land him a more lucrative contract from the club as the season unfolds. If Villar were to make it all the way to free agency in four years, he would be 30 years old, which is a common age for first-time free agents. The problem for Villar though, is that his speed, one of his best assets when grouped with his 19 homers and .369 OBP, won’t last forever, and could see teams not willing to pay him as much for it, making him a hitter with decent pop, a little speed and a good OBP.

The other problem that Villar could run into is the competition on the market from other free agents to-be. According to Spotrac, the following infielders will be hitting the market along with Villar: Joe Panik, Jason Kipnis, Starlin Castro, Matt Carpenter, Matt Duffy, Rougned Odor, Jake Lamb and Marcus Semien. Granted, some of the players like Carpenter and Kipnis will be well into their 30’s by that time, and Panik and/or Odor could have extensions with their current clubs by then, but as things sit right now, that’s a lot of competition, which would mean less money for Villar in the long run.

If Villar has another solid season in 2017 and enjoys his time with the Brewers, he should seriously consider making a deal with the club. Taking the guaranteed money is a solid bet, and when you factor in that he could see his speed decline and the potential levels of competition that he would face to land a job after 2020, taking the sure money ahead of time seems like it could be the best play for Villar.

There is definitely a chance that he’ll outplay the contract, but with Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant and others hitting the market after 2021, his road to a big payday doesn’t get any easier. Cashing in early may be his best bet at that payday. Another solid season this year should help up that offer from Milwaukee, and potentially add another year or two of stability for VIllar.

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