Lukewarm Stove: Andrus Traded for Davis+ (the Rare Big League Swap), Villar to the Reds (Probably?), Brewers Eyeing Choo, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Andrus Traded for Davis+ (the Rare Big League Swap), Villar to the Reds (Probably?), Brewers Eyeing Choo, More

Chicago Cubs

How about a little MLB action for your Saturday?

 A’s and Rangers Swap Big Leaguers

Ah, the rare big league swap! These are always fun.

Having lost shortstop Marcus Semien to the Blue Jays via free agency, the A’s have acquired a replacement in long-time Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (seriously, he’s been their shortstop for the past 12 seasons … this is kind of insane for that reason, alone).

Andrus, 32, hasn’t really ever been much at the plate – and even that has degraded recently – but he does provide solid value on the bases and in the field. Given the obvious vacancy at the position in Oakland, I understand why they made this move.

As for the return, the Rangers are getting two prospects and … Khris Davis?! If it sounds crazy, you should probably re-check his FanGraphs page. The slugger is a couple years removed from his three-straight seasons of 40+ home runs and above average overall production. In 2019, he slashed just .220/.293/.387 (82 wRC+) and in 2020, it was more of the same – .200/.303/.329 (82 wRC+). Notably, his average exit velocity has begun to fall off the map.

Long story short, the A’s get a shortstop, and the Rangers are betting on a Davis-bounceback, while netting a couple of prospects, and even saving some cash in the deal:

UPDATE: It’s a little more complicated then laid out above, but the Rangers are still saving money:

I’m not sure how much this actually moves the needle for either team, BUT sometimes you need to fill vacancies and take shots on guys you think can contribute. In any case, my interest in this deal is more about the players involved than the actual implications. You just don’t see big league swaps like this very often.

Jonathan Villar to the Reds (Probably)

First, the Brewers got Kolten Wong, then the Tigers grabbed Jonathan Schoop, and now it looks like the Reds are signing Jonathan Villar. In other words, many of the low-cost/risk free agent options at second base are flying off the board, and often within the Cubs own division.

Though note, it’s not done yet, despite some early reports to the contrary:

Ultimately, this could end up as just a minor league deal, but Villar no doubt recognizes the potential opportunity to carve out a spot for himself at short in Cincinnati, as opposed to second base, where a team, like, say the Cubs, might love to otherwise play him.


Indeed, here’s what Brett said about Villar just a couple days ago, when we were considering him as a realistic option for second base, alongside some of those other names above:

Villar, a switch-hitter, isn’t going to be a high-contact addition to the lineup, though he does offer a little pop, some walks, and a whole lotta speed on the bases. Defensively, you like that he can pretty much play anywhere, but interestingly, he’s rated as better defensively at shortstop in recent years than at second base. At both spots, you’d call him slightly below average, based on the metrics.

It’s not hard to imagine Villar, overall, being a significant offensive upgrade at second base over what Nico Hoerner might be able to offer you in the short-term, but it’s also not hard to imagine Villar continuing a decline at the plate, leaving you with a lot of speed he doesn’t get to use very often.

He certainly wasn’t my favorite option for the Cubs at second, but I still do want them to get SOMEBODY so that they don’t need to force Nico Hoerner out of the opportunity to develop his bat at Triple-A Iowa. If the Reds are able to land him on a minor league deal, that will be a bit of a bummer.

Fortunately, there is at least one more alternative in this category, and he’s still available:

Brad Miller

Sorry if that gives you some bad feelings given how much he crushed the Cubs in 2020, but Miller has remade himself into a substantial power threat (more loft), while cutting down the strikeouts enough in recent years to approach average on that front …

… When he’s been healthy, Miller has hit enough to be a starter, and that figures to be the case into his age 31 season. One rub with Miller is that his splits are pretty pronounced, hitting righties well enough for his career (.245/.326/.447, 111 wRC+), but really struggling against lefties (.224/.284/.334, 72 wRC+). He might not be an every day guy.

Like Villar, Miller can kinda play all over, which is plus, though the actual defensive ability isn’t above-average.

We’ll see what happens, but it does sound like Villar will end up with the Reds for pretty cheap. Dang.

Shin-Soo Choo to the Brewers?

Many moons ago, back before the Rangers signed Shin Soo-Choo to a seven-year, $130 million deal, the Cubs were among the parties rumored to be interested in the (then) OBP-machine – he had just posted a .423 OBP with the Reds heading into his free agent season, at a time when front offices were finally beginning to agree that getting on base, you know, matters.

Well, Choo, now 38, has played out that deal and is looking for another one, potentially as a first baseman, with a speciality in hitting righties well. And the Brewers are interested.

Choo still gets on base well enough, relative to his batting average and general expectations, but his 97 wRC+ in 2020 was his first below-average offensive season since 2007 – but even then, he hit righties solidly (112 wRC+). If the Brewers do add Choo, I wouldn’t consider it a non-factor. He could be pretty darn useful for them if deployed correctly.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami