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Villar, Ureña among arb-eligibles under wraps

Marlins acquire 18-year-old shortstop in deal with Red Sox
@JoeFrisaro
January 10, 2020

MIAMI -- Continuing their negotiations until the 1 p.m. ET deadline Friday for teams and players to exchange salary figures, the Marlins avoided arbitration by agreeing to one-year contracts with infielder Jonathan Villar, right-hander José Ureña and lefty reliever Adam Conley. The business of the day didn’t go completely smoothly

MIAMI -- Continuing their negotiations until the 1 p.m. ET deadline Friday for teams and players to exchange salary figures, the Marlins avoided arbitration by agreeing to one-year contracts with infielder Jonathan Villar, right-hander José Ureña and lefty reliever Adam Conley.

The business of the day didn’t go completely smoothly for Miami. First baseman Jesús Aguilar was unable to come to terms, and his salary for 2020 will be decided after an arbitration hearing.

The Marlins have a standing policy to cut off negotiations and proceed to a hearing if a deal isn’t reached with an arbitration-eligible player by the exchange deadline. Technically, the two sides can continue talking up until the hearing starts. But the Marlins open discussions again only if they plan to work out a multiyear deal.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Villar will earn $8.2 million in 2020 and Ureña will take home $3.75 million. Sources said Conley will make $1.525 million.

The Marlins obtained Villar from the Orioles on Dec. 2 for lefty pitching prospect Easton Lucas. On the same day, Aguilar was claimed off waivers from the Rays.

Villar, primarily a middle infielder throughout his big league career, is expected to move around to various positions with the Marlins. A switch-hitter and projected leadoff batter, Villar most likely will play third base, second and some outfield. He can play all three outfield spots.

With the Orioles in 2019, Villar appeared in all 162 games and posted a slash line of .274/.339/.453 with career highs of 24 home runs and 73 RBIs. A speedster, he added 33 doubles and stole 40 bases.

Aguilar, an All-Star with the Brewers in 2018, is expected to be Miami’s regular first baseman. Once his contract issue is settled, Miami will be banking on Aguilar having a bounce-back season after he had his struggles in 2019.

Playing for the Brewers and Rays a year ago, Aguilar hit .236/.325/.389 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs in 131 games. But in 2018 in Milwaukee, he hit .274/.352/.539 with 35 home runs and 108 RBIs.

Villar can become a free agent after the 2020 season. The veteran has five years, 113 days of Major League service time. Ureña has four years, 40 days; Conley three years, 147 days; and Aguilar three years, 82 days.

Ureña, the Marlins’ Opening Day starter the past two seasons, dealt with injuries in 2019. This year, he is being shifted to the bullpen. Conley, a starter earlier in his career, also is now a reliever.

In an injury-plagued 2019, Ureña was 4-10 with a 5.21 ERA in 24 games, including 13 starts. He logged just 84 2/3 innings. His season was interrupted in mid-June by a low-back strain, which was later diagnosed as a herniated disc. When he was reinstated in September, the 28-year-old was moved to the bullpen and had his difficulties. In 10 innings, he had a 9.00 ERA.

Conley, 29, had a rough 2019, going 2-11 with a 6.53 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. His fastball, per Statcast, averaged 95.3 mph, but he struggled with consistency. Conley also had his issues with left-handed hitters. A year ago, lefties batted .336 off him, compared with .286 by right-handers.

In 2018, Conley was more effective, posting a 4.09 ERA in 50 2/3 innings.

Marlins acquire young shortstop from Red Sox

The Marlins added some lower-level Minor League infield depth on Friday by completing a trade that will send reliever Austin Brice to the Red Sox.

In exchange for Brice, who was designated for assignment on Tuesday, the Marlins acquired shortstop Angeudis Santos, an 18-year-old who played last year in the Dominican Summer League.

Santos made 50 starts at shortstop, and he also played some left and right field in his first professional season. A left-handed hitter, Santos paced the DSL with 55 walks, while posting a .384 on-base percentage. His batting average was .184 in 174 at-bats. He also stole 15 bases in 19 attempts and scored 30 runs.

Brice was designated for assignment on Tuesday as the corresponding move to create a spot on the 40-man roster for outfielder Corey Dickerson.

The 27-year-old Brice appeared in 36 games for the Marlins in 2019, going 0-1 with a 3.43 ERA in 44 2/3 innings.

Brice landed on the injured list three times in 2019, initially being place on the 10-day IL with gastroenteritis on April 16. In July, he went on the IL with a right forearm flexor strain, and on Aug. 27, he was back on the injured list with a right forearm strain.

Brice was the Marlins’ ninth-round pick in 2010, and he served two stints in the organization. He broke in with Miami in 2016, but was dealt to the Reds after the season as part of the trade for right-hander Dan Straily. Right-hander Luis Castillo was also included in that deal.

Brice was with the Reds in 2017 and '18, then signed with the Orioles following the '18 season. The Marlins claimed the right-hander off waivers from the O's on Feb. 4, 2019, and he made the Opening Day roster.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.