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Jesús Aguilar designated for assignment

A critical run producer for the Marlins in 2020 and 2021, Aguilar wasn’t as reliable this season.

Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish Stripes

Jesús Aguilar was due to become a free agent this upcoming winter, but with 38 regular season games remaining, the Marlins are ready to say goodbye. On Friday, they designated him for assignment (making room for Garrett Cooper to be reinstated from the injured list).

Relative to initial expectations, Aguilar’s Marlins tenure was a decisive success. The Fish acquired him from the Rays via waiver claim in December 2019. It was not a sure thing that he’d start regularly for them or even make the 2020 Opening Day roster.

In the three seasons since then, he led the team in numerous counting stats, including hits (267), home runs (45), runs batted in (176), sacrifice flies (16) and games played (295). His availability throughout 2020—on a roster that was depleted by positive COVID cases and injuries—was crucial for the Marlins to snap their postseason drought. For much of 2021, he was an RBI machine.

However, Aguilar’s production waned late last summer amid knee issues and he slumped out of the starting gates in 2022. There were brief hot streaks, but overall, his 36.4 HardHit% this season was his lowest since becoming a major league regular, and he lacked the baserunning and defensive value to compensate. Both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference estimate that his value at age 32 was sub-replacement level.

The timing of this break-up is bizarre, nonetheless. The clock is ticking on the Marlins to find out what they have in young sluggers Lewin Díaz and Jerar Encarnación, yet Aguilar’s presence was blocking them from getting consistent reps at first base and designated hitter. When the front office was unable to find a taker for the former All-Star prior to the August 2 trade deadline, why didn’t they DFA him right there? Instead, Aguilar continued to serve as Miami’s primary DH, coinciding with the club’s humiliating streak of scoring three runs or less. It’s also awkward from another standpoint: Aguilar departs one day too soon to take part in LoanDepot Park’s Venezuelan Heritage Celebration.

Once Aguilar clears waivers, the Marlins will be on the hook for what remains of his $7.3 million salary as well as the $200,000 buyout of the 2023 mutual option in his contract. There’s now a vacancy on the Marlins 40-man roster.