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Marlins trade for Orioles’ Jonathan Villar, claim Jesus Aguilar

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MIAMI — Infielder Jonathan Villar was acquired Monday by the Miami Marlins from the Baltimore Orioles for minor league left-handed pitcher Easton Lucas.

Villar had reportedly been placed on waivers last week as the team sought a trade partner.

The Marlins also claimed first baseman Jesus Aguilar off waivers after he was designated for assignment last week by the Tampa Bay Rays.

A switch-hitter, Villar turned in a career year for Baltimore last season, hitting .274 with career highs in hits (176), home runs (24) and RBIs (73) in 162 games. He ranked third in stolen bases in the American League with 40.

Villar made $4,825,000 and likely would have received a salary of about $10 million next year had he been eligible for arbitration, so general manager Mike Elias opted to trade the 28-year-old as part of a more substantial teardown.

Baltimore finished last in the American League East in 2019, the first season with Elias at the helm. From the outset, Elias made it clear that the roster will be overhauled before being injected with young talent.

Lucas is a 23-year-old lefty with one year of minor league experience.

The Orioles also announced they have reached a one-year agreement with lefty Richard Bleier and offered 2020 contracts to first baseman Trey Mancini, infielder Hanser Alberto, right-handers Dylan Bundy, Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens.

Aguilar was an All-Star for Milwaukee in 2018, when he had 35 home runs and 108 RBIs. This year he had 12 homers and 50 RBIs for the Brewers and Rays.

Aguilar, 29, is expected to share time at first with Garrett Cooper, who had 15 homers and 50 RBIs for Miami this year.

Aguilar has a .256 average with 63 homers and 215 RBIs over six seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee and Tampa Bay.

Villar is a career .261 hitter. He had a career-best 62 stolen bases for the Brewers in 2016. He has played shortstop (385 games), second base (333), third base (54) and the outfield (13).

To make room on Miami’s 40-man roster, infielder JT Riddle and right-handed pitcher Tayron Guerrero were designated for assignment. Riddle then was not offered a contract, making him a free agent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Reds overpay Mike Moustakas in bid to move up in NL Central

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The Cincinnati Reds finished 12th in the National League in on-base percentage (OBP) in 2019, ahead of two teams in strong pitchers’ parks and the underpowered Miami Marlins. So of course, the Reds just committed four years to a 31-year-old hitter without a position who has posted a .320 or better OBP twice in seven full seasons in the majors. Mike Moustakas might have been a good fit for a lot of clubs, but the Reds were not one of them.

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Angels don’t tender contract to catcher Kevan Smith

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels declined to offer a 2020 contract to catcher Kevan Smith on Monday, making him a free agent.

The 31-year-old Smith played in just 67 games last season with the Angels after they claimed him off waivers from the White Sox. He batted .251 with five homers and 12 RBI while missing time with injuries including a lower back strain and a concussion.

The Angels tendered a contract to catcher Max Stassi, but his recovery from right hip surgery could keep him sidelined past opening day. Anthony Bemboom is the only other catcher on the Angels’ 40-man roster.

The Angels also tendered contracts to their other seven arbitration-eligible players, infielder Tommy La Stella, outfielder Brian Goodwin and left-hander Andrew Heaney.

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Which MLB players were cut loose or traded on non-tender night

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Non-tender night has becoming an increasingly interesting spot on the baseball calendar as teams increasingly decline to offer contracts to viable and sometimes quite productive major league players — but not so productive that their current team is willing to pay them what they might earn via the arbitration process.

The Baltimore Orioles put second baseman Jonathan Villar on waivers last week, even though he was coming off a season in which he hit .274/.339/.453 with 40 stolen bases. The Orioles finally found a trade partner Monday night as the Miami Marlins sent them a minor league pitcher, but mostly the Marlins will absorb Villar’s projected $9.75 million salary. The Marlins also acquired first baseman Jesus Aguilar from the Tampa Bay Rays, who was available for the same salary-driven reasons. The Marlins ranked 25th in wOBA at first base in 2019 and dead last at second base, so they just became a better team simply by existing, adding a 4.0 WAR second baseman and a 2018 All-Star first baseman.

In fact, maybe they should scroll through the list of Monday’s non-tenders to build an entire new lineup. Thanks to revenue sharing and TV money, the Marlins can actually afford these guys and roll the dice. Heck, being terrible enough to snap up some intriguing talent is perhaps a good way of exploiting the sabermetric mind-set of the “smart” teams.

Addison Russell was the biggest name cut loose, with the Cubs issuing a statement that Russell’s projected role for 2020 was “inconsistent with how he would have been treated in the salary arbitration process.” With Javier Baez entrenched at shortstop, David Bote a capable reserve in the infield and prospect Nico Hoerner impressing in September, the Cubs didn’t need Russell and will save an estimated $4.5 million in salary.

Russell is now a free agent. He is actually more attractive than some non-tenders, since he actually has two years of team control remaining, and since Marlins non-tendered shortstop JT Riddle, that makes Miami a possible landing spot for Russell. Of course, he comes with baggage that some teams will wish to avoid after drawing a suspension in 2018 for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy. His bat has also regressed after a promising 2016 season when he hit 21 home runs and knocked in 95 runs as the shortstop for the World Series champion Cubs. His defensive metrics, however, remain above-average.

Besides the Marlins, the Orioles are a possibility. Or maybe the Reds, who have Freddy Galvis hanging around, but could use an elite shortstop sandwiched between Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas in their infield — and Russell’s warning-track power could work well in the Great American Ball Park.

Here are some of the other interesting non-tenders with projected salaries via Cot’s Baseball Contracts:

RHP Blake Treinen (Oakland Athletics)
Projected salary: $8 million

Why he was non-tendered: After posting a 0.78 ERA and 38 saves in 2018, Treinen couldn’t find the same consistency with that darting power sinker and posted a 4.91 ERA with 5.7 walks per nine.

Possible landing spot: Treinen was drafted by the A’s, traded to the Nationals and then traded back to the A’s. How about a return to Washington, where he can get the chance to be Sean Doolittle’s set-up guy?

1B C.J. Cron (Minnesota Twins)
Projected salary: $6.9 million

Why he was non-tendered: Cron has mashed 55 home runs the past two seasons, was waived by the Rays last offseason and now has been non-tendered. He has power, but doesn’t walk and is a mediocre defender, making him a below-average regular at first base.

Possible landing spot: The Rangers were 29th in wOBA at first base as rookie Ronald Guzman was overmatched. The White Sox could use a DH. The Royals are in a rebuilding mode, but had the worst first base numbers in the majors.

CF Kevin Pillar (San Francisco Giants)
Projected salary: $9.25 million

Why he was non-tendered: Funny, Pillar actually received one 10th-place in the MVP voting, the same as Max Scherzer. I guess the Giants don’t feel he was actually as valuable as Max Scherzer. He hit 21 home runs, but somehow walked just 18 times in 162 games, giving him a .293 OBP.

Possible landing spot: Pillar’s defensive metrics have slipped from their 2015-2017 peak in Toronto, but he’s at least average in center field and he’s not a complete zero at the plate. The Rockies, last in the majors in DRS in center field, could use Pillar’s glove, as could the Mets. The A’s could play Pillar in center and shift rifle-armed Ramon Laureano to right field.

RHP Kevin Gausman (Cincinnati Reds)
Projected salary: $11 million

Why he was non-tendered: That’s big change to pay a pitcher who put up a 5.72 ERA in 2019. The Reds like their rotation with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafini and Tyler Mahle.

Possible landing spot: Gausman averaged 3.1 WAR from 2016-18, so he might be able to find a two-year contract if his medicals check out. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was very good in 2019, so he isn’t completely broken. This has Angels written all over it. Or Rangers. Or maybe the Twins, who have to replace Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda in the rotation.

Infielders Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco (Philadelphia Phillies)
Projected salaries: $10.5 million and $5.75 million

Why they were non-tendered: The anticipation that there are better options out there in free agency, most likely — such as Josh Donaldson or Anthony Rendon to play third base and Didi Gregorius to play shortstop (with Jean Segura sliding over to second base).

Possible landing spots: Hernandez, originally signed by the Phillies way back in 2006, is a solid player who has averaged 2.5 WAR the past four seasons and at the right price could land on a contender — like the Indians, Red Sox or A’s (who just traded Jurickson Profar to San Diego). Franco? Meh. How about a spring training invite to the Tigers?

OF Domingo Santana (Seattle Mariners)
Projected salary: $3.75 million

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