On November 2nd, Jonathan Villar, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles, was inexplicably placed on waivers. The Marlins had second dibs on him, after the Detroit Tigers due to their respective win-loss records. The Orioles reclaimed Villar at that point so they wouldn’t lose him for nothing at all, and the Marlins traded minor league pitcher Easton Lucas to Baltimore for his services.
Although never considered an all-star, Villar is coming off his best major league season, after hitting .274/.339/.453 with 24 jacks, 73 RBI, and 40 stolen bases. He was worth 4.0 WAR, according to Baseball Reference, and gives the Marlins an instant 30-30 threat, especially with the changes to the outfield walls.
Villar led the National League with 62 stolen bags in 2016, while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers. Although he plays mostly at shortstop and at second base, the Marlins seem to have him pegged as their new third baseman, freeing up Brian Anderson to play where he’s best, in right field.
To make room for Villar, the Marlins designated shortstop J.T. Riddle for assignment, and Riddle declined in order to become a free agent.
Ranked as high as number 10 on the Marlins prospect list, back in 2016 (by MLB Pipeline), Riddle has played in 223 games for the Marlins, mostly at shortstop with a 31-game experiment in center field.
Riddle managed a slashline of .229/.269/.368 with 18 moon shots and 79 RBI over 668 plate appearances, but the Marlins had seen enough after an underwhelming 2019. Riddle hit just .189 in 51 games last year, and finished with a -0.4 WAR.
The addition of Villar and the subtraction of Riddle makes the Marlins 4.4 wins better than last year. Along with our cautious estimate of a 1.0 WAR from Kemp, we’re already six wins above last season’s clip. I know that translates to a 63-99 season, but the Marlins weren’t done yet.