ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – AUGUST 30: Jesus Aguilar #21 of the Tampa Bay Rays runs the bases after hitting a three-run home run off of Adam Cimber of the Cleveland Indians during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Tropicana Field on August 30, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Rays are in need of a right-handed bat and some form of an offensive boost. Rumors have been circulating that they will non-tender Jesus Aguilar due to his projected $2.5MM, but does that make sense?
One year ago the Brewers thought they had their first base position locked up with Aguilar coming off a breakout season, an All-Star season, a trip to the home-run derby, a .352 OBP, 35 Hr, and 108 RBI.
What a difference a few months of 2019 made. The Tampa Bay Rays were able to snag Aguilar near the trade deadline in exchange for reliever, Jake Faria. Aguilar seemed like a good fit but his 2019 was a far cry from his All-Star campaign.
At the time of the trade Rays GM, Erik Neander told us:
"“A right-handed hitter that can contribute as a first baseman or in the DH spot that can bolster our lineup against left-handed pitching was a desire. Jesus Aguilar is a power right-handed-hitting first baseman that had a down first half of the season, I don’t think there’s a way around that, but he has shown some life here recently.”"
Neander and the Rays believed in a bounceback for Aguilar and I trust that judgment. While he didn’t light St. Pete on fire he did improve his numbers in almost every category. His HR/AB went up, his AVG, OBP, and SLG all moved in the right direction with the Rays.
If the Rays believe he is a capable power bat from the right-hand side of the plate, $2.5 million is a great deal for that type of bat. If Aguilar is shown the door, it leaves the money-strapped Rays with a huge hole for a power bat from the right-hand side.
For his Major League career, Aguilar has been a force at the plate. His career batting line is .256 /.334 /.472 – very good numbers. Additionally, over his career in the Bigs, Aguilar has clubbed a homer every 18 at-bats. That rounds out to 31 homers over 550 at-bats.
It seems like the best bet is to hope that the prodigious power re-emerges for Aguilar. The Rays believed he was a difference-maker last season when they made the move for him, and unless a couple of months has changed their minds, I’d expect (and hope) to see Aguilar supplying the right-handed power at 1B and DH in 2020, especially with the departure of Travis d’Arnaud.
Aguilar seems like the just the right kind of value player the Rays would love to have at $2.5 million. He’s proven what type of player he is, and that player is a perfect fit for what the Rays are looking for to complement the two lefties already slated for first base duties, Ji-Man Choi and Nate Lowe.
Spock would agree that Jesus Aguilar is the logical fit for the Rays roster-construction/monetary needs in 2020 at 1B/DH. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. What say you? Do you hate Spock?