There have been many surprising performances from the Jays as a whole this season. I don’t think anyone expected Edwin Encarnacion to become the power house he is, and I doubt anyone guessed that Aaron Laffey would become a very important piece of the rotation for a good chunk of the season. But, if there’s one thing we all expected, it was for the Jays to lean heavily on Carlos Villanueva when the going got tough. And that’s exactly what has happened this season, as he continues to earn every single cent he’s making this season.
Carlos Villanueva is the chameleon of the Jays staff. So far in 2012, he has started 5 games, finished 9, and pitched in a total of 27, good for 61.2 innings. His stats over those innings? A 2.92 ERA, 1.281 whip, and a 6 – 0 record. He’s allowing a career low 7 hits per 9 innings, and is averaging 9.5 Ks per 9. Over his 5 games started, he has allowed 3 ER twice, 0 ER twice, and 2 ER once as he has worked at least 5 innings each time. Talk about earning your pay!
He’s making $2,277,500 this season, and is set to become a FA at the end of the year. Still just 28 years old and obtained from Milwaukee for a bag of peanuts (a PTBNL who I never heard of thereafter), he needs to be taken care of by the Jays, because he is an extremely valuable piece of the staff in Toronto.
Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star recently wrote an excellent article outlining how Carlos has been used and why he’s a great leader, something very few people know much about. The best Villanueva quote from the article was this one:
"“I’m not the kind of guy that goes around talking to the GM or the manager, the pitching coach, ‘What’s going to happen? What am I doing? Am I going to do this or that?’” Villanueva said at the time. “Maybe I’ve learned through the years not to bother them. They know what I can do and they know what I want to do, so if they give me the ball, I’ll take it. I don’t need to be babied.”"
You have to love that kind of attitude, and it’s something the Jays must want to keep.
With J.A. Happ joining the Jays and providing the team with a possible LHP version of Villanueva (someone who can start when needed, or be the long or short reliever type), the Jays could enter 2013 with a lethal and valuable duo in the pen. The question is, will they spend the money required to lock Villanueva up for 2-3 years.
There’s no way of knowing just how much money Villanueva will make if he becomes a FA, and there’s also no way of knowing whether or not he’d take a slight discount to remain in Toronto. But, what I do know is that Jason Frasor and Brandon Lyon will both be FA after the season, and there’s a good chance that Luis Perez will still be recovering or rehabbing. Sergio Santos should return, making up one of those missing pieces, and Aaron Loup has looked good enough to be considered in the running for another. Still, neither of those pitchers provides the services that Villanueva can provide, and signing him should therefore be a priority for the Jays.
In terms of contract length and money, there’s a good chance Alex Anthopoulos would aim for 2 or 3 years with one of those years being a team option. He has signed the majority of Jays relievers to such terms of late. A decent guess would be a 2 year deal ($3.25 million the first year and $3.75 the second year) with a team option for a third year that holds a buyout.
Looking ahead to 2013 and what will be available on the FA market, there are few options that can match Villanueva’s production. If the Jays can lock him up and enter that season with Villanueva and Happ supporting Santos, Janssen, and the remainder of the cast, they would be very well setup for a strong season.
What do you think? Will the Jays extend Carlos Villanueva? And if so, for how long and how much?