The Milwaukee Brewers have their eye on the future, and it appears that they want that future to include one of 2016’s breakout players in second baseman Jonathan Villar.
Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Brewers general manager David Stearns and team front office personnel proposed a contract extension worth $20 million to Villar and his camp, but Villar turned down the offer “for now.” That is a sure sign that Villar wants to bet on himself and prove that his 2016 season wasn’t a fluke.
Villar lead all of Major League Baseball in stolen bases last season with 62 swiped bags, and batted .285/.369/.457 with 19 homers and 63 RBIs as the Brewers primary leadoff hitter in 156 regular season games. Milwaukee acquired him via trade last off-season from the Houston Astros in-exchange for minor league pitcher Cy Sneed.
In his report, Heyman didn’t report how long the contract extension would be in terms of years, but based off the multi-year agreements the Brewers have dished out under Stearns, I would imagine the deal was a five-year, $20 million extension that would’ve paid the versatile infielder an average salary of $4 million a year.
Villar will become eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career next season, and won’t be a free agent until 2020 because of the team control the Brewers have with a young player like Villar. That means that rushing an extension isn’t a necessary option right now.
Just as Villar is betting on himself, the Brewers were also betting that they could get Villar on a very team-friendly deal so that he becomes a bargain chip for the club once they are ready to go for a playoff run again, which Heyman also noted is expected to be in 2019.
It’s also extremely likely that the offer to Villar was similar to the contract that the Brewers inked first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames to this off-season, which was a three-year, $16 million deal that has the potential to be a team-friendly deal for the Brewers if Thames game is able to translate from Korea back to the highest professional level.
Milwaukee still owes former National League MVP Ryan Braun over $72 million over the course of his contract, while right-handed pitcher Matt Garza is likely to see his tenure end with the Brewers after making $12.5 million this season in the final-year of a four-year, $50 million contract. Garza has a vesting option in his contract that the Brewers are not expected to pick up worth $13 million. The option is expected to become a $5 million team option, however, as Garza likely won’t meet the required incentives to earn the full salary.
Outside of Braun, Garza, and Thames, the Brewers currently do not have any players under long-term agreements. Most of the team will be under team control for years to come, but there are no base salaries set for those players until spring.
In-addition to Villar, candidates for a contract extension after this season include Junior Guerra, Zach Davies, Hernan Perez, Orlando Arcia, and Domingo Santana. Top prospects Lewis Brinson and Josh Hader likely won’t receive extensions despite their performance in 2017, but it is something to start thinking about. Brinson is the Brewers best positional player prospect, while Hader is the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball.
Just like last season, the Brewers will give Villar every chance to succeed. He flashed signs of having power in the second half of the season, and he will be more comfortable on defense this season at second base as opposed to shortstop and third base. He struggled at third base, which lead to the acquisition of Travis Shaw to play third base, moving Villar to second, and sending Scooter Gennett to a bench role.
The hope is that Villar becomes a piece for the Brewers to build around long-term, and it looks like Villar hopes he is with the Brewers long-term despite rejecting the extension.
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