As the Miami Marlins seek to improve their lineup, roster flexibility is playing is a key role in the team's approach.
While a few players are locked into one position, the Marlins -- and the rest of the league -- are placing a premium on the ability to move seamlessly around the field. On Monday, the Marlins made a pair of moves that should increase lineup permutations next season.
Looking to bolster their league-worst offense, the Marlins acquired Baltimore Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar and Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jesus Aguilar. Both bring strong offensive profiles, and in Villar's case, the ability to play multiple positions. While Aguilar is primarily a first baseman, his addition will cause a chain-reaction to Miami's defensive lineup.
"The No. 1 priority heading into this offseason was to upgrade our offense," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Tuesday. "We felt like Jonathan Villar and Jesus Aguilar represented immediate upgrades to our offense.
"Another goal was that we wanted to be mindful of our upper-level prospect depth, and approaching (Monday's non-tender) deadline and heading into the Winter Meetings, we're continuing to look for ways to improve."
While Villar has traditionally played shortstop and second base, the Marlins are currently set in those spots with Miguel Rojas and Isan Diaz, respectively. While Villar provides insurance at those positions, Hill said the plan is work Villar at third base and the outfield. That means Brian Anderson will likely continue to swap between third base and right field. Through his first two seasons, Anderson has excelled defensively at both positions, while also being the Marlins' best hitter.
Villar's presence immediately improves the Marlins' lineup. Acquired for minor league pitching prospect Easton Lucas, Villar is coming off a stellar 2019 season in which he hit .274/.339/.453 with 25 HR, 33 doubles, 40 stolen bases and 4.0 WAR last year. Going through a rebuild and looking to shed salary, the Orioles unexpectedly designated Villar for assignment last week. Villar, 28, who will be a free agent after this upcoming season, is projected to make $10.4 million per MLB Trade Rumors.
With Aguilar likely to see significant playing time at first base, Hill said the Marlins will shift Garrett Cooper to the outfield. One of Miami's top power hitters, Garrett Cooper spent 73 of his 107 games at first base last season, but has proven he can handle right field as well.
In 2018, Aguilar put up strong numbers, hitting 35 home runs in an All-Star season for the Milwaukee Brewers, but saw his numbers dip significantly this past year. Still, Hill said the Marlins are excited about what they've seen in the first baseman, who's projected to earn $2.5 million this season.
"In just looking at his offensive metrics, we still felt like even in a year where the surface stats did not look as productive as they were in 2018, we still felt like this was an impactful bat," Hill said. "If this is was floor, we're incredibly excited to see what he's capable of doing in our lineup."