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Marlins trade for Jonathan Villar, shake up roster

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Joining Jesús Aguilar, the Marlins pick up the electric Jonathan Villar in a glorified salary dump.

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Fresh off a long Thanksgiving weekend, the Marlins front office wasted little time getting back to business. They juiced their 2020 lineup on Monday night with veteran infielders Jonathan Villar and Jesús Aguilar, trading unheralded left-hander Easton Lucas to the Orioles to acquire the former while claiming Aguilar off waivers from the Rays.

Squeezing them onto a full 40-man roster meant designating right-hander Tayron Guerrero and infielder JT Riddle for assignment. The arbitration-eligible Riddle has been non-tendered, allowing him to test free agency for the first time in his career. No moves were made involving right-hander José Ureña or left-hander Adam Conley, signaling that the Marlins intend to tender them contracts for next season.

Here’s the full statement from the club:

MIAMI—The Miami Marlins tonight announced that the club has acquired infielder Jonathan Villar from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Minor League left-handed pitcher Easton Lucas and claimed All-Star infielder Jesús Aguilar off waivers from Tampa Bay.

To make room on Miami’s 40-man roster, infielder JT Riddle and right-handed pitcher Tayron Guerrero were designated for assignment. Riddle has subsequently been non-tendered.

Villar, 28, batted .274 (176x642) with 33 doubles, 24 home runs, and 73 RBI in 162 games for Baltimore last season. The switch-hitter also posted 40 stolen bases and 111 runs scored, ranking third in the American League in steals, and fifth in runs scored. His stolen base percentage of 81.6 (49 attempts) ranked fifth in the AL, and his 176 hits tied Boston’s Mookie Betts for ninth.

A native of La Vega, Dominican Republic, Villar is a .261 hitter in 779 career games, with 132 doubles, 15 triples, 78 home runs, and 268 RBI. He also has 202 stolen bases in 54 attempts (78.9 percent). He had a career-best 62 stolen bases for the Brewers in 2016; only Juan Pierre (68 in 2010) and Dee Gordon (64 in 2014) have posted better single-season marks since 2010.

A majority of Villar’s games have been played at shortstop (385 games) and second base (333), but he has also seen time at third base (54) and in the outfield (13).

Aguilar, 29, split 2019 between the Brewers and Rays, combining to hit .236 (74x314) with 12 doubles, 12 homers, and 50 RBI in 131 games. He was a National League All-Star in 2018 with Milwaukee, when he set career highs in games (149), runs scored (80), doubles (25), home runs (35), and RBI (108). He ranked tied for fifth in the NL that season in home runs and tied for fourth in RBI, and had two home runs and five RBI in 10 postseason games for the Brewers.

A native of Maracay, Venezuela, Aguilar has appeared in 307 games at first base in his career, and in nine at third base.

Keep in mind, the Marlins entered Monday with MLB’s lowest projected payroll. Even with Aguilar ($2.5 million arbitration projection via MLB Trade Rumors) and Villar ($10.4 million) in the fold, there ought to be a willingness to invest further in the bullpen and outfield.

That being said, these moves strike a nice balance of low risk and fairly high reward without “blocking” top prospects.