Once upon a time, Angel Villalona was a highly regarded first base prospect with the Giants. However, he hasn’t played in the United States since 2009 because of a murder charge in his native Dominican Republic. Nearly four years later, he’s going to get the opportunity to resume his career stateside.
According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, Villalona has received a travel visa and will be in big league camp with the Giants this spring. He is expected to join the team next week in Arizona.
Villalona spent three months in jail after being accused of killing a 25-year-old man in a nightclub in September of 2009, but the charges were eventually dismissed following a $139,000 settlement with the victim’s family. After dropping a breach of contract lawsuit against the Giants, Villalona was added back to the 40-man roster last offseason and protected from the Rule 5 Draft. However, because he failed to obtain a visa, he spent last season in the Dominican Summer League.
Putting Villalona’s legal problems aside, the odds are against him reestablishing himself as a prospect, as his stock was on the decline even before the arrest. The 22-year-old compiled a terrible 235/45 K/BB ratio over his first three seasons in pro ball and had issues with conditioning.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.