The Marlins might not be making big splashes, but they are at least rising above tank level.
Derek Jeter’s team made two moves Monday uncharacteristic of a tanking team, acquiring Jonathan Villar and claiming Jesus Aguilar off waivers.
After winning a total of 120 games over the last two seasons since Jeter took over as CEO, the Marlins are at least signaling they may be interested in being competitive in 2020. Perhaps having the league’s worst attendance by a wide margin (averaging 10,016 per game, more than 4,000 fewer fans than the 29th-ranked Rays) is finally forcing them into action.
Villar was the Orioles’ most valuable position player last season with a WAR of 4.0 while batting .274 with 24 home runs, 40 steals and a .792 OPS. Naturally, that made the versatile infielder expendable for the tanking Orioles, who put him on outright waivers instead of paying his rising cost in arbitration. The Marlins landed Villar in exchange for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas.
Aguilar is coming off a down year after being an All-Star in 2018, but the Marlins took a chance hoping he will rebound in 2020. The first baseman hit .236 with 12 home runs for the Brewers and Rays last season. In 2018, he hit .274 with 35 home runs in Milwaukee.
While they are not ground-shaking moves, especially in the NL East, acquiring Villar and Aguilar appears to signal a shift for the Marlins. Instead of dumping talent, they are getting it, as Jeter may be finding out more fans care about the on-field product than he realized.
“This is professional sports, and I feel bad for even saying this, but it’s impossible to win every single game. But one thing you always remember is the experience you have while you’re at the park, and we want it to be a positive experience and we want people to enjoy themselves,” Jeter said before last season. “And look, a lot of times people come, they don’t know who won or lost, sometimes they don’t even know who was playing, but they do know if they had a good experience, and that’s what we’re focused on.”