During the COVID-shortened 2020 MLB season, Jesús Aguilar revived his career by helping the Miami Marlins reach the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
Now, he hopes he can do the same with a rebuilding Athletics team. Aguilar sees plenty of similarities between that Marlins team and the Oakland A's of 2023, he told reporters Wednesday, with a combination of established veterans like himself and young athletes hungry for a chance to prove themselves.
"The opportunity here was clear," Aguilar said (h/t MLB.com's Jack Magruder). "I want to be part of something good. I want to create. I want to build something good. In the future, maybe somebody will say, ‘Aggy was part of this.’ I’ve been in this situation before in Miami. I want to do the same thing here. I think we have what we need. Hopefully it will happen.”
The A's added Aguilar on a one-year contract this offseason worth $3 million, adding a spark to their offense which ranked last in several categories in a 100-loss 2022. He's projected to DH regularly for Oakland as a middle-of-the-order threat with some time at first base, and the 32-year-old is looking for a bounce-back season himself.
He found success with both the Marlins and, before that, the Milwaukee Brewers, but Aguilar's contract year last season didn't go as planned. From 2020-21 with Miami, the slugger hit .265 with 30 home runs, 33 doubles and 127 RBIs in 182 games -- and in 2022, he was released by the Marlins in August before finishing the season with the Baltimore Orioles and a .235/.281/.379 slash line between both clubs.
Now with Oakland, Aguilar is taking full advantage of his new situation, which figures to feature ample playing time should he remain available.
"I don’t want to put numbers in my mind,” Aguilar told reporters. “I just want to stay healthy. Hopefully, if I stay healthy, I can do a lot of good things. Everything was on the same page [in Milwaukee]. That’s over for me. I don’t try to think about that. You have to stay consistent.”
Aguilar played his way to an MLB All-Star nod with the Brewers in 2018, smashing 35 homers with 108 RBI. A's manager Mark Kotsay is optimistic Aguilar can put up something resembling those numbers with Oakland five years later.
"I’m hoping we get 2018 Jesús Aguilar,” Kotsay told reporters. “A guy that hit in the middle of the lineup for the Brewers and was a big part of that team’s success.”
Through Saturday's spring training game, Aguilar has three hits in nine at-bats with two RBI. But aside from any production at the plate, the addition of Aguilar is paying dividends in the clubhouse, too.
"His personality comes across as joyful,” Kotsay said. “Some would mistake the laugh and the smile in the game as maybe lack of concentration. Not it at all. He does like to stay loose, which is a good thing, and go out and have fun. That’s a big attribute to have inside that clubhouse, for sure.”
Another of Oakland's threats in the heart of the order, Seth Brown, believes Aguilar's demeanor will have a trickle-down effect in the dugout.
"The presence he brings is that calmness, that confidence that I think the younger guys need to see," Brown said of Aguilar. "This is what a big leaguer looks like. It’s good to have him around. It’s good to have all these guys. Those are the types of things the young guys need to see, how professionals go about their business.”
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And for Aguilar, a big leaguer now for nine years, his positivity perhaps is what has gotten him this far.
"For me, it’s about keeping the negativity away,” Aguilar said. “I like to be around the guys, talking. I just want to be a good guy. This game is too hard, man. For me, that is a way to take the pressure away from the young guys so they can go out there and play the game the right way.”