Jesús Aguilar has done everything right during his two seasons in Miami. Since the start of 2020, the former waiver claim leads all Marlins batters—by a wide margin—in games, plate appearances, hits, home runs and runs batted in. He’s been great with the fans and he’s been great with his teammates. Including the just-traded Corey Dickerson, Aguilar is receiving the fourth-highest salary among Marlins players this year at $4.3 million, and he’s earning every penny of that.
However, the Fish front office cannot let the past stand in the way of making the most appropriate decision for the franchise’s future.
THE MARLINS GET...
Before diving into any of the players who are actually in this proposal, let’s acknowledge one who would be indirectly impacted by Aguilar’s departure: Lewin Díaz. Acquired from the Twins two years ago, Díaz has solidified himself as one of the Marlins’ top prospects. In 70 minor league games since that trade, the Dominican first baseman has homered 19 times. He’s currently at Triple-A Jacksonville, but had a couple cups of coffee in the majors—25 games and 58 plate appearances since 2020—when Aguilar and Garrett Cooper battled various injuries. Díaz is an elite fielder at his position.
I’m high on Lewin and the Marlins seem to be high on Lewin. That does not mean he will be better than Aguilar, but he will be far more affordable (league minimum salary). Even with what many believe is the inevitable implementation of the universal designated hitter in 2022, this team should not be rostering two first base-only players. I’m aligned with Craig Mish on this one: “They need to move Aguilar or Cooper,” and the latter’s outfield experience makes him more complementary.
In trading Aguilar, the Marlins are getting financial flexibility and the opportunity to start Díaz regularly at the highest level. Those reps during the second half of the season would be so valuable.
Shifting our focus to the trade itself, Austin Shenton is raking (157 wRC+) in his first full minor league campaign. The fifth-rounder from the 2019 MLB Draft is tied for second among all MiLB players in doubles (22) and runs scored (51) entering Tuesday. Moreover, the 23-year-old is doing this against mostly older competition. He appears to be on the verge of a promotion to Double-A.
Shenton currently ranks 17th on MLB Pipeline’s Mariners prospects list and entered the year ranked 19th by Baseball America. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs had him way down in the No. 33 spot, expressing concerns that “his swing looks vulnerable at the top of the zone” and projecting that his major league defensive role would be at first base/DH. But halfway through 2021, Shenton has had the opportunity to prove he can stick at third base, which was his primary job during his collegiate career at Florida International University.
Even after prioritizing offense by leading off their new amateur draft class with seven consecutive position players, the Marlins have a dearth of infield prospects at the middle levels of their farm system. Shenton fits right in.
Worst-case scenario, maybe the FanGraphs evaluation is proven correct and Shenton is sorta positionless moving forward. At least he has the experience to “fake it” at third, second base and the outfield corners—that versatility is key.
Lefty reliever Aaron Fletcher, 25, had an excellent, almost Alex Vesia-like 2019 campaign that saw him ascend from Low-A to the Arizona Fall League. Also like Vesia, though, his fastball/slider/changeup mix has not translated to any MLB effectiveness in limited tries. Currently for Triple-A Tacoma, he has posted a 6.23 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 22 K in 21.2 IP.
Fletcher will still have two more minor league options available for 2022 and beyond, so the Marlins would get plenty of time to iron out his inconsistencies.
THE MARINERS GET...
Seattle will be coming out of the All-Star break at 48-43, three-and-a-half games behind the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot. They’ll need some help to close that gap and snap MLB’s longest postseason drought, which dates back to 2001.
The Mariners’ glaring deficiency is their offense. They rank dead last in the AL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Their first basemen in particular have a ghastly .209/.278/.342 slash line, which is what I imagine Jesús Aguilar would do if he went three years without touching an arepa.
Former top prospect Evan White was supposed to be the club’s everyday option at first, but White opened 2021 in a mega-slump, landed on the injured list with a strained left hip flexor and now faces the threat of season-ending surgery. Ty France, who has recently stepped up to produce well at that position, has the ability to rotate among the other infield spots, plus remember the DH is in play.
Aguilar is owed less than $2 million for the remainder of 2021. He’ll then be arbitration-eligible again entering next season—past precedent for comparable players suggests that salary should fall in the $7.5 million to $8.5 million range, depending on how he produces the rest of the summer. Although the Marlins would surely non-tender him at that price, the Mariners may be more amenable to it if White requires hip surgery. It helps to be a franchise with larger revenue streams, too.
The 31-year-old Aguilar has overcome some tough luck—in terms of both expected weighted on-base average and batting average on balls in play—to be an awesome run producer. For the fourth straight season, he has lowered his strikeout rate (down to 17.8%). It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he doesn’t help Seattle, on and off the field.
Another Mariners roster flaw: they don’t have enough left-handed pitchers who can hold their own against right-handed batters (.279/.354/.502 slash line allowed in those matchups). Their LHP have served up 44 home runs to RHB, tied for the most in the majors.
Ross Detwiler’s season stats—4.32 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 39 K in 33.1 IP—are slightly misleading. He has been terrific for the Marlins, albeit in mostly low-leverage situations. Last Wednesday, he was stretched beyond his comfort zone to cover for a fatigued bullpen and got taken deep by a trio of Dodgers in his final inning of work; prior to that, he had allowed zero long balls to righties.
Detwiler is a pending free agent on a cheap one-year deal.
Across three different MiLB levels in 2021, right-hander Josh Roberson has struggled with his control. But the hard-throwing Tommy John surgery survivor owned a 1.78 ERA in previous professional seasons and doesn’t require a 40-man roster spot yet. I think his inclusion here is important to the Mariners who would likely be hesitant to pull the trigger on a standard prospects-for-rentals deal.
Baseball Trade Values considers this a fair deal. However, the early feedback indicates that Mariners fans are very protective of Shenton. It is not unreasonable to wonder if his up-to-the-minute value is higher than the site estimates. To execute this in real life, the Fish may need to eat some of their veterans’ remaining salary or swap Roberson for a superior prospect.
What do you think?
Marlins get Austin Shenton and Aaron Fletcher. Mariners get Jesús Aguilar, Ross Detwiler and Josh Roberson. Fair deal?
This poll is closed
Yes, fair deal!
Marlins says no
Mariners say no
Both teams say no