Over the offseason, Camden Chat published an article about each member of the Orioles 40-man roster. During the 2022 season, we will update on new arrivals after they make it to the roster.
NOTE: Aguilar became a free agent at the end of the 2022 season. He is no longer on the Orioles 40-man roster.
How he arrived: Minor league contract signing 8/31/22, contract selected 9/1/22
Who left: Richie Martin designated for assignment 9/1/22
Through this ongoing 40-man roster series, there is one question I always try to answer about each player: Why is this guy here on the Orioles now? For some players, like the last one before this, the answer is obvious. Many others have taken some squinting. Jesús Aguilar is one of the ones where you have to squint pretty hard to try to figure out a reason that makes some kind of sense.
The newest Oriole, Aguilar, is not someone who anyone would have thought of a couple of weeks ago for the simple reason that he wasn’t here. The 32-year-old was with the Marlins through August 28, when he was released after having been designated for assignment two days earlier. No team wanted to claim him on waivers and be on the hook for the final month of his $7.5 million salary this season.
The Orioles will only owe Aguilar the pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum. This is about as low-cost as moves get. The only opportunity cost is that someone had to be removed from the 40-man roster. No one outside of Richie Martin’s circle of family and friends can be too upset about his getting dropped.
Prior to 2022, when the current MLB CBA set a limit on the number of pitchers who can be active on the roster at one time, Aguilar’s spot might have gone to a reliever. The O’s could only add one pitcher when the rosters expanded by two on Sept. 1, and that was DL Hall.
Players who have been doing well do not get designated for assignment. This is obvious, and it’s really obvious when you look at Aguilar’s 2022 batting performance. Across 113 games for Miami, he batted .236/.286/.388. The Orioles already have a right-handed hitting first baseman with a sub-.300 OBP whose value, such as it is, is derived largely from how many home runs he hits, and he isn’t hitting an impressive number of homers this year. That’s Ryan Mountcastle. Do they really need another?
Mountcastle, at least, is at 1.0 bWAR for the season. Aguilar has a WAR whose absolute value is 1.0. Unfortunately for him, there’s a negative in front of it.
What Aguilar does have going for him is a track record of decent performance up until this season. From his first full season in MLB in 2017 through to last year, Aguilar batted a combined .263/.338/.476, with a home run every 18.5 at-bats. That’s a 114 OPS+ over five years, which is better than every Orioles batter has done in 2022 except for Anthony Santander and Adley Rutschman. Over those five seasons, Aguilar added value at 2.0 WAR per 650 PA. You can find room for that player even if he’s redundant to someone on the current roster.
None of that good stuff is evident in how Aguilar has performed this season, though. A cursory glance at his Statcast percentages shows a lot of bad ones. He is not making the kind of contact where you might expect a good batting average or slugging percentage. He isn’t really hitting the ball hard at all. He is swinging and missing a lot, and especially chasing pitches outside of the strike zone too much. That’s added up to walking much less and striking out more.
If the Orioles are going to do something to reverse that trend, they don’t have much time to pull this off. The season is down to its final month. They are in the postseason chase with ground to make up, especially after the disastrous Labor Day doubleheader. There’s no reason to wait around for some guy who might be in “stick a fork in him, he’s done” territory to see if maybe he has something left in the tank.
Aguilar has not exactly done anything over his first handful of Orioles games to suggest he’s got a big turnaround from his Marlins numbers coming. It’s not like he’s been a sparsely used clubhouse mascot, either. He started three games since arriving on Thursday.
Like Brett Phillips a month ago, it is simply not clear to me what he brings to this team that wasn’t already here. The Phillips experiment lasted less than three weeks. Maybe Aguilar will surprise us all and do something to deserve a roster spot from now until October 5, or maybe he won’t and the Orioles will keep him that long anyway.
Still to come: Anthony Castro, Jake Reed