Marlins Make a Splash
Major league teams faced an 8:00 PM eastern deadline on Monday with which to tender players on their 40-man roster a contract for the 2020 season. Many players (54 in total) were ultimately non-tendered as their respective clubs wanted to free up roster space or didn’t want to pay the hefty raises that they would ultimately command through arbitration.
One team that unexpectedly made the biggest splash of the day though, was the Miami Marlins. There had been some rumblings that the Marlins were in a position where they would begin spending some money, and that bore fruit on Monday.
Derek Jeter and Company struck early in the day, claiming first baseman Jesus Aguilar off of waivers from the Rays. The 29-year-old slugger had one of the biggest breakout seasons of any player in baseball in 2018, slashing .274/.352/.539 with 35 homers and 108 RBI for the Brewers. His production fell off of a cliff in 2019 though, hitting just .236/.325/.389 with 12 homers and 50 RBI in 131 games between the Brewers and Rays.
Aguilar is only projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn $2.5 million via arbitration this winter, which is certainly a manageable figure, even for the Marlins. He’ll slot in as the club’s everyday first baseman and should settle into the middle of the lineup.
Prior to this move -- and with his status for 2020 still in limbo -- Aguilar sported an early NFBC average draft position of 557. That’s certainly going to rise now that he’s seemingly locked into an everyday role -- though his supporting cast will limit his RBI opportunities and his home ballpark in Miami isn’t going to do him any favors from a power perspective. My projection is that he’ll rise somewhere around pick 350-400 overall, making him a reserve round selection or speculative late corner infield option in 15-team formats.
What good is a run-producer without anyone to drive in though? The Marlins went out later in the day and made an even bigger splash, acquiring Jonathan Villar from the Orioles for minor league hurler Easton Lucas. The O’s had placed Villar on outright waivers last week in an effort to facilitate a deal and wound up taking the best offer that they could get for him.
Don’t let the minimal return that the Orioles received for Villar fool you though, he’s a legitimate top-of-the-order hitter and an absolute monster from a fantasy perspective. The only reason that the Orioles were willing to deal him, is that they didn’t want to be stuck with his salary after he earned a raise through arbitration this winter. MLBTradeRumors.com projects that Villar will earn $10.4 million via arbitration -- easily making him the highest paid player on the Marlins (though they’ll also be paying Wei-Yin Chen $22 million not to pitch for them in 2020).
From a fantasy angle, it’s a major relief to see Villar land on a team where he isn’t going to be challenged for at-bats. He should slot in atop the Marlins’ lineup and should remain there on a daily basis for the duration of the season. The 28-year-old played in all 162 games for the Orioles in 2019, slashing .274/.339/.453 with 111 runs scored, 24 homers, 73 RBI and 40 stolen bases. That’s tremendous five-category production. Early NFBC drafters have bought in -- even with the uncertainty as to where Villar was going to land -- with an average draft position of 28 through Sunday. His projected power production will take a hit with the move from the cozy confines in Baltimore to the pitcher’s paradise in Miami -- and he’ll tally fewer RBI playing in the National League -- but this is still a top-30 player overall in my estimation.
With the Marlins still intent on letting Isan Diaz serve as their everyday second baseman, Villar is expected to split his time between third base and the outfield. That means that in addition to the second base and shortstop eligibility that Villar has entering the season, he’ll become even more versatile for fantasy owners by adding eligibility at the hot corner and in the outfield as well.
Reds add Moose
The Marlins weren’t the only National League club to make a big move on Monday though. The Reds made headlines of their own, as Jeff Passan of ESPN reported the Reds had agreed to a four-year, $64 million contract with free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas.
After waiting until late in the off-season to sign, and settling for one-year deals, in each of the previous two off-seasons, Moustakas now has stability with the four-year pact. It also looks to be a nice bargain for the Reds, as Moustakas was expected to earn around $20 million annually.
With Eugenio Suarez entrenched as the Reds’ third baseman -- and Jose Peraza non-tendered on Monday -- Moustakas will function as the club’s everyday second baseman. He appeared in 47 games at second base for the Brewers in 2019 and proved that he can handle the position at a league-average level at least.
What isn’t in question at all, is his offensive prowess. Over the last three seasons, Moustakas has slashed .259/.319/.498 while averaging 34 home runs and 89 RBI per season. Even though he’s leaving the hitter’s paradise that is Miller Park, he’ll land in another extremely favorable offensive environment in the Great American Small Park.
What may ultimately drive his fantasy value is where he winds up hitting in the Reds’ lineup. The most likely scenario has the Reds maintaining a top-three of Nick Senzel, Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez, with Moustakas and Aristides Aquino filling in the next two spots in some order. In either of those spots, there should be ample RBI chances for the 31-year-old slugger.
Third base looks to be a surprisingly deep position heading into 2020 fantasy drafts. Prior to this signing, Moustakas has been the 18th player with third-base eligibility to come off of the draft board -- doing so at pick 125 overall. With his spot solidified in the middle of the Reds’ lineup, that number should climb up a bit, though he’s unlikely to wind up in the top 100.
The 8:00 PM mark on Monday was also the deadline for teams and players to come to an agreement on their contract for the upcoming season rather than going to arbitration.
Many players wound up securing deals just before the deadline. Here’s a full list of those players and what they agreed to (as well as what they were projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn had they gone to arbitration).
Ehire Adrianza - Twins - $1.6 million ($1.9 million)
Scott Alexander - Dodgers - $875,000 ($1.0 million)
Orlando Arcia - Brewers - $2.2 million ($2.7 million)
Austin Barnes - Dodgers - $1.1 million ($1.3 million)
Joe Biagini - Astros - $1.0 million ($1.5 million)
Richard Bleier - Orioles - $915,000 ($1.1 million)
Jharel Cotton - Cubs - $640,000 ($800,000)
Alex Dickerson - Giants - $925,000 ($1.2 million)
Wilmer Difo - Nationals - $1.0 million ($1.2 million)
Ben Gamel - Brewers - $1.4 million ($1.6 million)
Greg Garcia - Padres - $1.5 million ($1.7 million)
Erik Gonzalez - Pirates - $725,000 ($800,000)
Nick Goody - Rangers - $915,000 ($1.1 million)
Travis Jankowski - Reds - $1.05 million ($1.2 million)
Andrew Knapp - Phillies - $710,000 ($800,000)
Sandy Leon - Indians - $2.0 million ($2.8 million)
T.J. McFarland - Athletics - $1.8 million ($2.1 million)
Mike Montgomery - Royals - $3.1 million ($2.9 million)
Wandy Peralta - Giants - $805,000 ($800,000)
Jurickson Profar - Padres - $5.7 million ($5.8 million)
Donovan Solano - Giants - $1.375 million ($1.2 million)
Hunter Strickland - Nationals - $1.6 million ($1.9 million)
Matt Wisler - Twins - $715,000 ($1.0 million)
Mike Zunino - Rays - $4.5 million ($4.9 million)
In addition to the players that avoided arbitration, 56 players in total were not tendered contracts by their respective clubs, making them free agents. Here’s the full list which includes some very intriguing names:
Jason Adam (Blue Jays)
Tyler Anderson (Giants) - Re-signed Tuesday
Humberto Arteaga (Royals)
Pedro Avila (Padres) - Re-signed Tuesday
Tim Beckham (Mariners)
Ryan Buchter (Athletics)
Ryan Burr (White Sox) - Re-signed Tuesday
Alex Claudio (Brewers)
C.J. Cron (Twins)
Charlie Culberson (Braves)
Cheslor Cuthbert (Royals)
Elias Diaz (Pirates)
Miguel Diaz (Padres) - Re-signed Tuesday
Maikel Franco (Phillies)
Caleb Frare (White Sox) - Re-signed Tuesday
Rico Garcia (Giants)
Yimi Garcia (Dodgers)
Kevin Gausman (Reds)
Ian Gibaut (Rangers)
Koda Glover (Nationals) - Retired
Javy Guerra (Nationals)
Junior Guerra (Brewers)
Jesse Hahn (Athletics)
Guillermo Heredia (Rays)
Cesar Hernandez (Phillies)
Marco Hernandez (Red Sox) - Re-signed Tuesday
Trevor Hildenberger (Twins)
James Hoyt (Indians)
Wei-Chieh Huang (Rangers)
Danny Hultzen (Cubs)
Caleb Joseph (Diamondbacks)
Derek Law (Blue Jays)
Luke Maile (Blue Jays)
Erick Mejia (Royals)
John Ryan Murphy (Diamondbacks)
Jimmy Nelson (Brewers)
Rafael Ortega (Braves)
Josh Osich (Red Sox)
Wes Parsons (Braves)
Jose Peraza (Reds)
Josh Phegley (Athletics)
Kevin Pillar (Giants)
Kevin Plawecki (Indians)
Joey Rickard (Giants)
JT Riddle (Marlins)
Addison Russell (Cubs)
Tyler Saladino (Brewers)
Aaron Sanchez (Astros)
Yolmer Sanchez (White Sox)
Domingo Santana (Mariners)
Travis Shaw (Brewers)
Kevan Smith (Angels)
Steven Souza Jr. (Diamondbacks)
Jeffrey Springs (Rangers)
Blake Treinen (Athletics)
Taijuan Walker (Diamondbacks)
American League Quick Hits: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Tuesday that the Yankees will meet with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg over the next two days… MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that Zack Wheeler is considered the top free agent target for the White Sox... According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the White Sox "have engaged in preliminary trade talks" with the Dodgers for outfielder Joc Pederson… The Red Sox acquired Adenys Bautista from the Indians in exchange for Sandy Leon… The Blue Jays signed Phillippe Aumont and Justin Miller to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training… The Jays also re-signed Patrick Kivlehan and Andy Burns to minor league deals with big league camp invites… Thyago Vieira signed a contract with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan… The Rangers claimed Jimmy Herget off of waivers from the Reds… Veteran southpaw Cole Hamels told Chuck Garfien of the White Sox Talk Podcast that he sees himself as a good fit for the White Sox… Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com hears that the Royals are likely to re-sign Jesse Hahn, Erick Mejia and Humberto Arteaga… The Athletics re-signed Jake Diekman to a two-year, $7.5 million contract with a club option for 2022… The A’s also signed Dillon Thomas and Jordan Weems to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training… Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet hears that the Blue Jays have interest in free agent right-hander Josh Lindblom. Lindblom had another tremendous showing in the Korea Baseball Organization in 2019, posting a 2.50 ERA, 0.997 WHIP, and 189/29 K/BB ratio in 194 2/3 innings (30 starts) for the Doosan Bears.... Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Blue Jays have expressed interest in Hyun Jin-Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, among other free agent starters.
National League Quick Hits: The Padres acquired Jurickson Profar from the Athletics in exchange for catcher Austin Allen and a player to be named later… According to Andy Martino of SNY, Zack Wheeler has already met in person with several interested teams… Jon Heyman of MLB Network called it “very possible -- maybe even probable” that Wheeler winds up signing before next week’s Winter Meetings… Buster Olney of ESPN reports that Anthony Rendon has met with the Dodgers… MLB.com's Jon Morosi reports that the Giants are among the teams showing interest in free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos… The Phillies claimed Trevor Kelley off of waivers from the Red Sox… After one season back stateside, Jay Jackson signed on with the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball… The Marlins designated Tayron Guerrero for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Jesus Aguilar and Jonathan Villar… A team that engaged the Brewers on Josh Hader came away "convinced" that the reliever will remain in Milwaukee in 2020, per ESPN's Buster Olney.