Here's how Marlins plan to use Villar, Aguilar

December 3rd, 2019

MIAMI -- Upgrading their offense is the Marlins’ top offseason priority.

The organization took a big step in that direction on Monday by acquiring infielder from the Orioles and claiming off waivers from the Rays. The two are proven big leaguers who are expected to be fixtures in manager Don Mattingly’s lineup.

On Tuesday, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill gave clarity to the specific roles each player will have, especially defensively, in 2020.

The Marlins already have Miguel Rojas at shortstop and Isan Díaz at second base. Villar has mainly played middle infield for much of his career, but Miami envisions using the 28-year-old at third base, as well as in the outfield, while also knowing he can play second and shortstop.

Aguilar will be used at first base, which means Garrett Cooper is expected to also see time in the outfield.

“We felt like each player was an offensive upgrade for us,” Hill said Tuesday on a conference call. “We know that Villar is incredibly versatile, and athletic. We’ll look to move him around the field. We’ll look at him at third base, and the outfield. Additionally, we know that he’s played second base and shortstop historically. He’s just an offensive upgrade that we thought made a lot of sense to add.”

Aguilar, who had a breakout year in 2018 with the Brewers, opened the 2019 season with Milwaukee before being dealt to the Rays.

“Aguilar, a 2018 All-Star, has tremendous power,” Hill said. “The fact that we can move Garrett Cooper to the outfield, and get him at-bats in multiple places as well, just made sense to us as we looked at the opportunity to bring Aguilar on board.”

Villar, acquired for left-handed pitching prospect Easton Lucas, appeared in all 162 games for the Orioles last year and posted a slash line of .274/.339/.453 with 24 home runs, 73 RBIs and 111 runs scored. The speedster swiped 40 bases.

Defensively, Villar saw action in 111 games for the Orioles at second base (85 starts), and 97 games at shortstop (73 starts). In six MLB seasons, he’s mainly been at either shortstop (385 games) or second base (333). But he’s also seen time at third base (54 games) and in the outfield (13 games).

“That’s another very important aspect of his skill set that we took into consideration,” Hill said. “When we think about how we build our club, we like athletes, and we like speed. The fact that it’s a speed/power combination. We feel like he can impact our offense both with his power and his bat-to-ball skills.”

Aguilar, 29, combined to hit .236/.325/.389 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs in 131 games with the Brewers and Rays last year. The power-hitting first baseman was dealt to Tampa Bay at the July 31 Trade Deadline for right-hander Jake Faria.

The Marlins are hopeful Aguilar bounces back to his 2018 form, when he connected on 35 home runs and drove in 108 while posting a slash line of .274/.352/.539.

“We still felt like this was an impactful bat,” Hill said, noting Aguilar’s down year. “If this was his floor, we’re incredibly excited to see what he’s capable of doing in our lineup.”

Some other topics Hill addressed on Tuesday

• Tendering a contract to right-hander José Ureña:

The right-hander was Miami’s Opening Day starter the past two seasons, but after his herniated disc injury in 2019, he was used in the bullpen in September.

“He’s coming to camp as one of our pitchers,” Hill said. “We’ll allow him to keep competing to make our club. We know that he has history as a starter and out of the ‘pen, but what we’ve always said, the best 12 to 13 pitchers will make the club. That will be sorted out as we get to Jupiter. But he’s going to be in a competition, whether in the rotation or out of the ‘pen.”

• Plan for the bullpen:

The Marlins are open to signing a free-agent closer, or giving the job to someone from within. Drew Steckenrider, who missed almost all of 2019 due to right elbow inflammation, and Ryne Stanek are internal options who have handled high-leverage innings.

“There’s still a number of quality arms out there in the marketplace, and we’ll continue to explore that market and see if there is an opportunity for us to add and improve on our bullpen,” Hill said.