The Tampa Bay Rays acquired first baseman Brian O’Grady from the Cincinnati Reds yesterday. To clear roster space, the Rays DFA’ed Jesus Aguilar. Could the Brewers bring Aguilar back for 2020?
Jesus Aguilar came into 2019 after a career year in 2018. He was expected to earn the majority of the at-bats at first base for the Milwaukee Brewers, while still occasionally letting Eric Thames handle a few tough right-handed starters. Thames ended up seeing the majority of the playing time at first base, and Aguilar became an afterthought by mid-summer.
Aguilar ended up getting dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays at the July 31st trade deadline for right-handed pitcher, Jake Faria.
Aguilar will likely elect free agency and hit the open market since the Rays have added first baseman Brian O’Grady to their 40-man roster. Should the Brewers look to reunite with him for 2020?
How did Aguilar perform for the Rays in 2019?
After getting sent to Tampa Bay, Aguilar made 107 plate appearances in 37 games. He slashed .261/.336/.424 for the Rays, and clubbed four homers. He managed to drive in 16 runs and score 13 times.
His .760 OPS wasn’t great, but it was better than the .694 OPS he posted for the Brewers last year.
What would Aguilar cost?
If Aguilar stayed with the Rays, he would have been arbitration eligible for the first time in his career. He’ll likely hit free agency, and shouldn’t command more than a one-year deal for a few million dollars. He probably won’t get the $7.5 million that Thames would have received if the Brewers picked up his option. Is $5 million a reasonable sum to secure Aguilar’s services for 2020? Probably.
What are the odds of a reunion with the Brewers?
None of the current options at first base are that much of an improvement over Aguilar, and most will cost a bit more or require an extra year or two. What looks better? A one-year deal for Aguilar or a multi-year deal for Howie Kendrick? Aguilar is an affordable option who has familiarity with the organization and had a fantastic year in 2018. There’s a non-zero chance that Aguilar bounces back in 2020, and a ‘lightning in a bottle’ season next year would really make up for the disappointment of 2019.
Free agent moves are rarely predictable, but this one makes a lot of sense for the player and the team. Don’t be surprised if there’s smoke around Aguilar and the Brewers once the first base market starts moving.