By DAVID GINSBURG AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) — The rebuilding Baltimore Orioles further slashed their slim salary payroll by trading infielder Jonathan Villar to Miami on Monday for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas.
Villar played in all 162 games this year and led the Orioles with 176 hits, five triples and 40 stolen bases.
“He was a tremendously exciting player for us, a joy to have,” general manager Mike Elias said Monday night. “It was hard to let him go, but we’ve got to keep an eye on our strategic objectives, which is prioritize the future right now.”
In this Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, Baltimore Orioles’ Jonathan Villar runs the bases after hitting a solo home run off Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Ken Giles during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore. The rebuilding Baltimore Orioles further slashed their slim salary payroll by trading infielder Jonathan Villar to Miami on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Villar was too expensive to keep around. He is eligible for arbitration and likely to earn about $10 million next year, so Elias opted to trade the 28-year-old as part of a more substantial teardown.
“It makes a lot of sense and it’s something you have to do,” Elias said.
The GM described Villar as “a guy who’s going into his last year of arbitration with the team and facing free agency who is set to command a large salary with his play this year and year’s past” — qualities that don’t fit with the master plan for rebuilding the team.
“We’re going to miss him, but this is the right move,” Elias said.
Baltimore finished last in the AL East in 2019, the first season with Elias at the helm. From the outset, Elias made it clear that the roster will be overhauled before being injected with young talent.
Lucas is a 23-year-old lefty with one year of minor league experience.
“He’s someone who could project as a back-end starter for us possibly with good development,” Elias said.
The Orioles also reached a $915,000, one-year agreement with lefty Richard Bleier and did offer 2020 contracts to first baseman Trey Mancini, infielder Hanser Alberto, and right-handers Dylan Bundy, Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens.
“These are guys that had good years and continue to grow and are deserving of the opportunity to keep going forward,” Elias said.