It’s a simple question, and yet, I’m not sure we’ll get the answer we’re hoping for until the Chicago Cubs lose about 25-30 more games before this year’s trade deadline. The Cubs should be trying to get as much as possible in return at the deadline. Anyone who doesn’t have a future with this team should be on the trading block. With that said, there’s a reason this team is 25-42 sitting in fourth place of the NL Central. Putting it blatantly, the roster sucks. With an eye more towards the future, why are the Cubs pretending veteran players serve this team any purpose? The only logical explanation is they could potentially boost their trade stock in hopes of landing a lower-level prospect with raw tools. However, is that even realistic anymore?
Jonathan Villar is a Mess
On the surface, Jonathan Villar wasn’t a lousy offseason pickup. He was brought in to play multiple infield positions and add an element of speed on the base paths. However, Villar’s inability to make the simplest of plays on defense makes this one of the worst offseason acquisitions of any team in baseball. Keep in mind the team also signed Andrelton Simmons, who has a 14 wRC+ (86 percent below league average).
Villar’s lost a step and isn’t as fleet of foot as he used to be. After having above average speed his entire career, Villar’s sprint speed has dropped to the 33rd percentile. In 43 games this season, Villar has six stolen bases. Surprisingly, he hasn’t been thrown out attempting to steal, but he’s made multiple mistakes and been picked off.
His outs above average and defensive war are UGLY. After making rookie pitcher Caleb Kilian work for two extra outs in an inning during Monday night’s game, Villar has at least two errors at second base, shortstop, and third base, while ranking in the first percentile in Outs Above Average with a -7 OAA. First percentile isn’t good in this case, that means he’s near the bottom of the league. For a player who hasn’t started regularly this season, that’s embarrassingly bad.
For a guy who many incorrectly thought was a contact type of hitter, Villar ranks in the fourth percentile in whiff rate and 21st percentile in strikeout rate. He is far below league average in both categories. Yet, for a player that swings and misses that much, he doesn’t provide power like Patrick Wisdom does for example, with only two homers on the campaign.
Remember Ildemaro Vargas? He slashed .130/.231/.348 in 10 games with the Cubs this year. His fWAR was 0.0. In 43 games, Villar’s fWAR is dead last on the team at -0.6. Right now, he’s a switch hitter who can’t hit, can’t field, can barely run the bases, and lacks power. I’m not sure what the Cubs think they’ll get for him in a trade, but there’s no reason for him to be playing for the Cubs, let alone a contending team.
Simmons is a Defensive Specialist. Someone Could Use Him, Right?
Judging by the team’s record, Simmons’ defense hasn’t helped the Cubs. Nonetheless, we know wins and losses don’t portray an individual player’s contributions to a team. Simmons has been fine defensively with two Outs Above Average at shortstop. However, his Outs Above Average (OAA) drops to one when factoring in his -1 OAA as a second baseman. Something the Cubs have done a better job of lately is getting Nico Hoerner regular playing time at shortstop. But Simmons, a natural shortstop, and four-time Gold Glove Award winner at that position, never played second base until this season.
It’s nice the Cubs are finally trusting Nico Hoerner at shortstop and looking to see what he has while building toward the future. But, Simmons has virtually no value as a second baseman. The injury to Nick Madrigal means someone has to play there. David Bote could be returning soon from a rehab stint, and Christopher Morel could play more second base if the Cubs so choose.
Still, Simmons’ bat is brutal beyond belief. In 63 plate appearances, he has yet to barrel a ball once, has a .163 expected batting average, and as mentioned, a 14 wRC+. Unless some team really gets desperate for a glove-first, late-inning replacement shortstop due to some injuries, Simmons has absolutely zero value.
When Have We Seen Enough Jason Heyward?
The guaranteed contract and dollar commitments take just about any team out of the runnings for Jason Heyward. DFA’ing Heyward has been beaten to a pulp on social media, so I’ll refrain from going to over the top about it. I’ll just leave with this – J-Hey is currently a negative fWAR player both on offense and defense, and his 53 wRC+ is 47 percent below league average. What’s his purpose on this team? His leadership keeps him in the lineup over someone like Nelson Velazquez, a rookie with promising power and an unknown ceiling?
What is the plan if it isn’t to get these veteran guys as many opportunities as possible to boost their trade value? They aren’t boosting their trade value because they are playing horribly, therefore, they serve no other purpose on this team. The Cubs aren’t going anywhere this season. Villar, Simmons, and Heyward don’t have a long-term future here in Chicago. Why aren’t younger players with the potential to be long-term pieces at some capacity, whether a starter or bench role, getting the opportunities these negative WAR players are receiving?
Honestly, who the hell knows. That’s life as a Chicago Cubs fan. Clint Frazier never got a real opportunity to hit against right-handed pitching because Jason Heyward “needed” to start, apparently. Now, it seems Velazquez is getting the same treatment, being used as only a pinch-hitter and short-side platoon specialist.
None of the players mentioned in this article offer contending teams much value. It’s hard to imagine a team trading anything of significance for any one of them. The Cubs are better off just cutting ties and getting it over with.
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