Posted on July 31, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Jesus Aguilar
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A pair of teams in the middle of a playoff race have agreed to a trade both hope will address an obvious weakness. The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired first baseman Jesus Aguilar from the Milwaukee Brewers. In exchange, the Brewers are receiving pitcher Jake Faria.

The Rays have been in the market for a right-handed power bat, a description that Aguilar fits perfectly. The only problem is that Aguilar is in the middle of a down year. He excelled in a part-time role in 2017 and had a breakout season in 2018, serving as Milwaukee’s primary first baseman. However, Aguilar has regressed this year, hitting just .225 with only eight home runs, posting an OPS of .694.

Nevertheless, the Rays are hopeful that a change of scenery will help get Aguilar back on track. He figures to serve in a platoon at first base with Ji-Man Choi, who has struggled against left-handed pitching this season. Aguilar could also serve as a DH for the Rays, allowing Avisail Garcia to spend more time in the outfield if necessary while Kevin Kiermaier is on the Injured List. Aguilar also has three more years of arbitration, so he could turn into a long-term asset for Tampa if he can return to the form he had in 2017 and 2018.

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Meanwhile, Faria was an expendable piece for the Rays. Not long ago, he was one of Tampa’s top prospects and posted an impressive 3.43 ERA as a rookie in 2017. But he took a step back last season and has spent most of 2019 in the minors. In triple-A, he’s split his time between starting and the bullpen, pitching to a 4.07 ERA over 59.2 innings. He made just seven relief appearances this year for the Rays, who have more than enough bullpen depth to get by without him.

Of course, one team’s trash is another team’s potential treasure. With multiple starters currently on the IL, the Brewers need all of the pitching help they can get. Milwaukee acquired Jordan Lyles from the Pirates earlier this week, but Lyles alone probably isn’t enough to help them survive the recent rash of injuries.

The fact that Faria has experience as both a starter and reliever make him a good fit for the Brewers. He’s probably not stretched out enough to join Milwaukee’s rotation. But Fair can surely pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen if needed. He has also allowed just three runs in his 10 major league innings this year, good for a 2.70 ERA. Faria is also under team control through 2023, so he could be a useful part of Milwaukee’s staff for the next few seasons.

The Brewers should also have no problem replacing Aguilar at first base. Eric Thames is more than capable of playing every day and has been far more productive than Aguilar this year. Travis Shaw could also play first base if needed, although he’s had a dreadful season with the bat and just got back from a stint in the minors.

Ultimately, this trade makes sense for both teams. Each side gave up an expendable player and got back a player who addresses a weakness. Both the Rays and Brewers are one game or less out of a playoff spot. Any incremental improvement at this point in the season could end up making a difference in the end. The hope of both the Rays and Brewers is that this trade makes them just a little bit better than they were yesterday.

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