What does his market look like, realistically?Yesterday Cooper Carlson published a good piece on Rosario's downward trend, which basically makes the case for a trade on Minnesota's end. But to sum it all up, here's why the Twins likely view Rosario as an expendable piece:
- Top prospects Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker have all reached either Triple-A or Double-A. It's all but certain at least one of these advanced bats will be ready for the big-leagues by the middle of next summer, if not sooner.
- Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade, Jr. have both proven capable of filling in until a prospect arrives. Marwin Gonzalez can also play in left. All are superior defensively to Rosario.
- Entering his second turn at arbitration, Rosario is only two seasons away from free agency, and his salary is going to rise significantly from this year's $4.2 million. The extent of his raise could become a point of contention, for the same reason his trade market is so tough to peg: Rosario epitomizes the philosophical divide between traditional and modern schools of performance evaluation.
Having said all that, Rosario's strengths and track record should not be entirely downplayed. Paul Molitor liked to say you always want one guy in your lineup who can thwart a pitcher that is totally dialed in. Eddie brings that "strike anytime" dynamic. When he gets on a hot streak, he borders on unstoppable, leaving pitchers with nowhere to hide. He's also a charismatic fan favorite, an energizer in the clubhouse, and a relentlessly fierce competitor.
Although his reputation as Mr. Spotlight felt a bit miscast in the second half – amid futile "Eddie" chants – it is a well earned one. His pinch-hit walk-off homer at Target Field and game-ending gundown at Fenway were among the unforgettable 2019 highlights. He batted .340 with runners in scoring position and had a .983 OPS in Close & Late situations.
Count the Twins and their analytically-inclined rookie manager among those who buy into Rosario's mystique: Rocco Baldelli wrote Rosario's name into the cleanup spot for all but five of his starts (he batted third in those).
To what extent is this sentiment shared around the league? Do other increasingly sophisticated front offices view Rosario as a player whose presence and impact transcend the overall numbers and analytical conventions? It's no secret to anyone that his defense and speed have declined sharply, but Eddie is still only 28. His athleticism is still high, and he hasn't quite reached his ceiling. Any team acquiring him gets the two final years of his 20s.
It seems fair to say that Rosario will be an appealing trade target – for the right buyer – but his market will be tempered. Who is that right buyer, and what might they be willing to offer?
Let's try and whittle down to some prospective trade partners that make sense.
Presumably they won't trade him within the division. That removes CLE, CWS, KC, DET.
It can't be a team that has no real hope of contending during Rosario's remaining two years of control. Cross off BAL, SEA, MIA, PIT, CIN.
We'll dash every team that is already loaded on offense, and/or easily capable of spending freely to get more of it: NYY, BOS, HOU, LAD, ATL, CHC, WAS, PHI, NYM, STL, COL.
Okay, that leaves us with nine teams. I'll go through them one-by-one to assess the specific matches.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Tough to see the team that viewed Corey Dickerson as expendable giving up much for Rosario. This just isn't a Rays-like move, and they've got ample outfield depth anyway. No match.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
I was tempted to include them among hopeless non-contenders, but they have enough young talent that they could turn the corner in a hurry, particularly if they address the pitching staff with gusto. Problem is, left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was their best hitter this year, and right fielder Randal Grichuk (a very similar player to Rosario) is under contract through 2023. No match.
This one rather intrigues me. Oakland's primary corner outfielders – Robbie Grossman and Stephen Piscotty – combined for 19 homers and 1.4 fWAR in 2019. The A's have no outfielders among their top eight prospects, per MLB Pipeline. There's a fairly obvious need here, and acquiring Rosario would enable them to make an impact add without tying themselves up in a bulky free-agent contract. The A's are deep in arms that could appeal to the Twins. Maybe Chris Bassitt? Keep in mind that Rosario is pretty much the antithesis of a Billy Beane "Moneyball" specimen..
I'm sure Eddie would LOVE to play in this park 160 times before hitting free agency. He's a career .328/.349/.517 hitter in Arlington, a notorious hitter's haven when the temps heat up. Unfortunately for him, it's tough to see the Rangers having a need, with solid corner outfield depth headed by Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun. No match.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Hmmmm. Urgency is increasing for the Angels to do SOMETHING during Mike Trout's fleeting prime, lest they carry the burden of wasting one of baseball's greatest careers ever. Kole Calhoun is a free agent. They're gonna making some moves to set up new manager Joe Maddon for success; wouldn't be crazy to see a Rosario acquisition among them. Would reliever Cam Bedrosian plus a low-level prospect be a sensible return?
The thought of Rosario playing opposite Christian Yelich is fun. Only one problem: Ryan Braun, who remains under contract through next year, with a 2021 option. No match.
Rosario's old partner in the Ed-n-Eddie duo, Eduardo Escobar, thrived during his first year in the desert with 35 homers and 118 RBIs. The D-backs, who sorely lacked for corner OF punch this year, could well be interested in reuniting them. Were Arizona to be open to something involving closer Archie Bradley, who like Rosie has two years of control remaining, this could be a good fit.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
If there's no bad blood from the Sam Dyson fiasco, this could work. I'm not sure the Twins would be enticed by anyone on San Francisco's big-league roster, but the Giants have a number of promising arms in the minors – some close to MLB-ready.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Over the past two winters, the Padres invested $450 million Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado. The returns thus far have been less than great. Nevertheless, GM A.J. Preller is now tasked with building around them in a reasonably efficient way. Above all, this team needs cost-efficient offensive production, although their decision to give up Franmil Reyes at the deadline in July clashes with this assumption. If they're high on Rosario, I'm sure they could easily put together a package of arms to make it worth Minnesota's while.
If you had to put your money a landing spot for Rosario, where would it be? (And that can definitely include "Minnesota.")
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