About one year into Mike Elias’s tenure as general manager of the Orioles, it’s fair to say that the team has done little to spur immediate improvement. However, they also haven’t been actively making moves to be worse in the short term... until today. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported that the Orioles have placed Jonathan Villar on waivers.
According to Kubatko, the move follows the Orioles having tried, without success, to find a trading partner for Villar. Despite Villar posting a 4.0 bWAR season in 2019, with a .274/.339/.453 batting line and 40 stolen bases, it seems that neither the Orioles nor any other team are interested in his services at the projected estimate of over $10 million dollars for his salary in his final year as an arbitration-eligible player.
The result of this move is that either another team will claim Villar on waivers by Monday, or he will be non-tendered by the Orioles and become a free agent. Both of these would result in the Orioles losing Villar for nothing in return.
This sucks. The idea that having a $10 million second baseman is some unpalatable expense for a team that’s already had its payroll slashed significantly is a crummy one. It’s not like Villar was blocking some hot prospect who’s on the cusp of making it up to MLB. The Orioles don’t have any intriguing high-minors middle infield prospects right now.
The 2020 edition of the team will be worse as a result of this, and what’s more, there is no way for fans to even tell ourselves that there is some future benefit. If it’s a signal that the team actively wants another #1 overall pick in the 2021 draft, then there’s already no point in mustering any hope whatsoever for the 2020 season. There’s no expectation the team will sign any free agent of even modest significance and now they’re getting rid of one of the better players for nothing at all.
It may be that the $10 million that would have been spent on Villar is in some way reinvested back into the team. We all are well aware that the Orioles needed a lot of under the hood improvements to get themselves in a position where they can try to build a winner again.
Maybe that’s so, but the Opening Day payroll has already come down from $164 million in 2017 to about $80 million in 2019, and if Villar’s salary is slashed, the 2020 OD payroll is currently estimated by Cot’s Contracts at about $63 million. That’s a lot of money already off the books to fund whatever needed to be done.
If the claim is made by someone in the front office that this was some necessary money-saving move, there will be no transparency to that claim. Receipts will not be provided and even a general sense of what might be done with a further $10 million at this juncture, other than go back into ownership’s pockets, is probably not forthcoming. That sucks too. This is not a fun time to be an Orioles fan.