After a long and briefly-interrupted rehab following shoulder surgery, David Bote is finally back with the big league team. In what originally looked like a situation where the Cubs might have too many options to afford him meaningful playing time (or even a roster spot necessarily), the Cubs are now probably pretty desperate to get Bote back.
So desperate, in fact, that they are finally letting Jonathan Villar go after a disastrous two and a half months with the team. Villar, who has wildly disappointed at the plate and in the field, has been designated for assignment. The Cubs will have seven days to trade, waive, or release Villar. I anticipate he will ultimately be released.
That opens the 40-man spot and the 26-man spot for Bote. Since Villar was originally in the starting lineup, we’ll see how the Cubs adjust for tonight. I wonder if Bote will be in there if he can get to the ballpark on time?
Villar, 31, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Cubs before the season, and it almost immediately became a sunk cost. He hit .222/.271/.327/66 wRC+ over 166 plate appearances, and was statistically among the worst defenders in baseball. Simply put, Villar was a completely different player than the guy who he’d been for most of his previous seasons. The Cubs were right to move on – even in a lost season, the playing time needs to go elsewhere – and perhaps he reboots somewhere else.
As for Bote, he will try to work his way back into the utility mix after an extended absence, and several seasons of not-quite-getting-there. The defense, at least, should be a substantial upgrade over what Villar has shown. What happens whenever Nick Madrigal returns remains to be seen, though it could wind up a one-to-one swap with Andrelton Simmons. I’m not sure the Cubs are going to give up on Bote any time soon (he’s 29 and under team control for several more years).