TODAY: Aguilar cleared waivers and has been released, as per the Marlins’ MLB.com transactions page.
AUGUST 26: The Marlins have designated first baseman Jesus Aguilar for assignment, general manager Kim Ng announced to reporters (Twitter link via Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald). All-Star Garrett Cooper is back from the injured list in a corresponding move.
Now that the trade deadline has passed, the only course of action for the Marlins will be to place Aguilar, 32, on waivers and hope that another club claims him. Given the $7.5MM guarantee on the struggling Aguilar’s 2022 contract, however, that appears quite unlikely. While Aguilar’s deal does carry a mutual option for the 2023 campaign, mutual options are rarely exercised, so teams will look at him as a pure rental.
There’s still about $1.6MM left to be paid out on the contract of Aguilar, plus a $200K buyout on that option. It’s hard to imagine a contending club dropping $1.8MM to claim a player who is hitting just .236/.286/.388 on the season as a whole — including a dismal .188/.246/.347 slash since the All-Star break. The overwhelming likelihood is that Aguilar will clear waivers and become a free agent — whether by being released or rejecting an outright assignment.
At that point, Aguilar would be free to sign a new contract with any team, and the new team would only owe him the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the MLB roster. The mutual option would no longer be a consideration, as he’ll have been released from the contract containing that clause. Aguilar would be postseason-eligible for a new club as long as he is signed (or, far less likely, claimed) prior to Sept. 1.
While a team isn’t likely to take a chance on Aguilar at the cost of his remaining salary, it stands to reason that several clubs would hold interest in signing him at the prorated league minimum. Aguilar hasn’t been himself in 2022, but as recently as 2020-21 he gave Miami a combined 726 plate appearances of .265/.336/.458 production, smacking 30 home runs and 33 doubles with an 18.3% strikeout rate against a solid 9.5% walk rate.
Aguilar doesn’t carry a significant platoon split, so at his best, he’s an above-average, everyday slugger with 30-homer pop … he just hasn’t been close to his best in 2022. His 23.2% strikeout rate is the highest it’s been since 2018, and Aguilar has seen his average exit velocity (87.7 mph) and hard-hit rate (35.4%) dip to career-worst levels in 2022.
Aguilar has generally graded out as a solid defender at first base, but he’s seen his typically solid grades take a step back in 2022, clocking in at -4 Defensive Runs Saved, a -1.4 Ultimate Zone Rating and zero Outs Above Average. He’s limited to first or designated hitter for the most part, with the lone exception being a few emergency appearances across the diamond at the hot corner over the years (27 career innings, including five in 2022).
Assuming Aguilar indeed clears waivers, teams in need of some offensive help at first base or designated hitter — or just a right-handed bat off the bench — could take a low-cost look in hopes of turning his season around. For the Marlins, they’ll use the remainder of the year to give a larger look to Lewin Diaz, who once ranked among the organization’s top prospects but has seen his stock tumble in recent seasons. The aforementioned Cooper also figures to see additional time in the lineup.