MIAMI -- The Marlins had solid production from first base in 2020, and on Wednesday, they made contractual commitments to their top two candidates for next year.
Aguilar will receive $4.35 million, plus incentives, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. Cooper will make $1.8 million, per Craig Mish of Sports Grid.
Reliever Ryne Stanek was non-tendered. The right-hander was acquired in July 2019, as part of a deal with the Rays for reliever Nick Anderson and right-hander Trevor Richards. The Marlins also acquired outfield prospect Jesús Sánchez in the trade.
Miami tendered contracts to third baseman Brian Anderson, catcher Jorge Alfaro and relievers Yimi García and Richard Bleier. Tendering a contract simply means a club commits to signing a player to a salary usually determined later. Players who are tendered a contract can still be traded.
In these uncertain economic times, there were questions if Miami would retain both Aguilar and Cooper, because both play first base and a decision has yet to be announced if the National League will continue to have the designated hitter in 2021. The Marlins kept both in '20, in part, because of the DH and the fact that the rosters were expanded to 30 for the first two weeks of the season and settled at 28 for the rest of the year.
Aguilar, who reached a deal exactly a year after the Marlins claimed him off waivers from the Rays, made his case to stay with a productive season. In 51 games, he hit .277 with eight home runs, 34 RBIs and an .809 OPS. He emerged as one of the Marlins' leaders as they reached the postseason. Vocal in the clubhouse and productive on the field, he tapped back into the power he showed while with the Brewers in 2018, when he had 35 homers and 108 RBIs.
Cooper hit .283 with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 34 games, missing some time due to a positive COVID-19 test. He made $580,000 this year and was eligible for arbitration for the first time.
Aguilar’s raise comes after he won his arbitration hearing before the 2020 season and had his salary set at $2.575 million. The Marlins previously countered at $2.325 million. Players were paid a full prorated portion of their '20 salary based on games played, which was equal to approximately 37 percent for the full season.
The first-base battle promises to be one of the most closely watched positions when Spring Training opens in February. Along with Aguilar and Cooper, prospect Lewin Díaz may be ready to take over full-time. Díaz, the Marlins’ No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, gained some big league experience in 2020, hitting .154 in 14 games. He's also their best defensive first baseman.
In two seasons with the Marlins, Stanek never completely settled into a role. The 29-year-old was used in various setup situations, and this past season, he had a 7.20 ERA in 10 innings over nine games. In 22 appearances in 2019, he had a 5.48 ERA in 21 1/3 innings.
A fixture on the roster since 2015, Ureña made $3.75 million in '20. He was let go because he doesn’t fit into the rotation plans.
Miami’s projected starting five is Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Sixto Sánchez, Elieser Hernandez and Trevor Rogers. If Rogers or Sánchez, both rookies in 2020, show they need more seasoning in Spring Training, prospects Edward Cabrera, Nick Neidert, Braxton Garrett and Daniel Castano will be in the mix.