The Rays, continuing their search for a right-handed slugger, have shown interest in Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, Mark Feinsand and Juan Toribio of MLB.com report. Tampa Bay was previously connected to other notable right-handed hitters in the Rangers’ Hunter Pence and the Tigers’ Nicholas Castellanos (links: 1, 2).
Unlike Texas and Detroit, Milwaukee doesn’t look like a potential seller going into the July 31 trade deadline. The Brewers are a game back of wild-card position and two behind the first-place Cubs in the National League Central. As such, it’s far from a sure thing the Brewers will trade Aguilar. If they do, it would have to benefit them immediately, per Feinsand and Toribio.
Considering Aguilar hasn’t been the integral piece of the Brewers’ roster that he was during a division-winning 2018, he does look more expendable now than he did at the outset of the season. Aguilar slashed .274/.352/.539 with 35 home runs over 566 plate appearances last year to serve as one of the majors’ fiercest sluggers. That production now looks like a distant memory.
So far this season, Aguilar has hit a meek .230/.328/.385 with eight HRs and a massive drop in ISO (from .264 to .155). The 29-year-old has raked in July (.342/.395/.684 in 43 PA), but it’s the sole month in which Aguilar has registered above-average production at the plate. He and the lefty-swinging Eric Thames, who’s having a much better season, have been platooning at first for the Brew Crew.
For all the faults in Aguilar’s bottom-line production, there are reasons for hope. For one, he remains something of a Statcast favorite. There’s a wide chasm between Aguilar’s weighted-on base average (.312) and expected wOBA (.351). He ranks in the league’s 72nd percentile in xwOBA and checks in similarly well in expected slugging percentage (65th) and exit velocity (66th). And contrary to many other power hitters, Aguilar’s not overly prone to striking out. He has fanned a reasonable 22.9 percent of the time (with a better-than-average 12.3 percent walk rate), posted a decent 11.3 percent swinging-strike rate and chased out-of-zone pitches less than most hitters.
Should the Brewers part with Aguilar, an acquiring team would be landing a player who’s cheap now and under control for a while. Aguilar, currently on a near-minimum salary, is slated to take his first of three potential arbitration trips during the upcoming offseason.