It’s a move that likely won’t show up on ESPN’s ticker as breaking news or change much about the team’s subpar outlook, but the 2023 Oakland A’s just became significantly more entertaining and watchable with the signing of Jesús Aguilar.
The 32-year-old Venezuelan first baseman and designated hitter reportedly agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the team on Tuesday morning, pending a physical.
On the field, Aguilar will provide some thump in a lineup that doesn’t have much in the way of guaranteed power hitters. He hit 35 home runs in 2018 for the Milwaukee Brewers and appeared in that season’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. Aguilar also clubbed 22 for the 2021 Miami Marlins, though he’s coming off a poor 2022 campaign that saw him designated for assignment (DFA’d) by a Miami team that lacked offense, followed by a brief and forgettable run with the Baltimore Orioles.
If Aguilar returns to form, he could be a trade deadline candidate for an A’s team that’s likely still a couple years away from mounting a serious playoff push, barring an unlikely 2012-type run. Whether or not he succeeds on the field, Aguilar simply makes the team more fun by adding a splash of personality.
In Milwaukee, Brewers teammates showed their love for the 6-foot-3, 277-pound Aguilar by fitting two players into one pair of his pants, mimicking a stunt the Kansas City Royals had pulled off five years earlier.
He was regularly miked up during his time with the Marlins, and never failed to entertain his teammates and fans. In a May 2021 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Aguilar wore a microphone for the entire game, and the results were hilarious. He debated with teammates over which store to visit to buy a birthday cake for a teammate (Publix won out over Walmart, since they were in Florida), called one of his teammates “John Wick” and spent a significant portion of the game excitedly pointing out former teammate Matt Joyce in the opposing dugout.
Yes, there’s a chance Aguilar is past his prime and continues to post a sub-.700 OPS (on-base plus slugging), leading to a quick and forgettable run that culminates in an unceremonious DFA. The A’s had hoped to capture similar power and personality last year in Eric Thames, who had signed a minor league deal and never appeared in a game with the big league club. While Thames never caught on, Dermis Garcia showed flashes of potential with five home runs in 125 late-season plate appearances. With Aguilar’s signing, Garcia will likely start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas.
Unlike Thames, Aguilar is on an MLB deal. He’ll be on the Opening Day roster, so long as he’s healthy. Even if he struggles, there’s a good chance he hits at least one mammoth homer, like this 2018 shot off the scoreboard in Milwaukee. His at-bats are worth tuning in for, regardless of the score.
And no matter how well or poorly he plays, he’ll always be able to tell his teammates where Matt Joyce is.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]