Projected for around $10 million in arbitration, the Minnesota Twins opted not to tender a contract to slugging outfielder Eddie Rosario. Rosario becomes a free agent, joining fellow hard-hitting outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Joc Pederson on the market.
It’s a harsh market for free agents despite some sizeable contracts being handed out to starting pitchers. Searching for a new team as a splitty outfielder with below-average defence will be hard. Similar players provide competition for Rosario – he could see potential landing spots disappear as others sign.
Rosario was 20th percentile in outs above average last season. He was -18 in left field in 2019, which was the worst mark by that metric in all of MLB. Some teams will see Rosario as no more than a DH, others will be happy to carry some poor defence in left. After all, a career .837 OPS against righties and 31 homers in 2019 will lure in plenty of front offices.
Like a lot of hitters, Rosario is better hitting opposite handed pitchers. He’s a .710 OPS guy against lefties. While that’s enough of a drop off to change his offensive value considerably, it doesn’t make him unplayable against southpaws like some others.
Alex Kirilloff is set to take Rosario’s spot with the Twins. His market as a free agent is hard to judge. Will he be able to get a multi-year deal? Will those defensive numbers scare potential suitors off anything more than a pact for 2020?
Rosario has been an above average hitter by wRC+ for each of the last four seasons. Steamer projects a 105 wRC+ for 2021. What sort of contract is he looking at? Would a team offer a deal in the range of what he would have got in arbitration? Maybe a two-year, $16 million deal is out there for him.
While Rosario improves almost every team, his options in free agency could be limited.
Landing spots for Rosario
A lot of teams should be looking to upgrade their outfields. The Indians and Pirates were comfortably the worst two teams in MLB by outfield wins above average, but neither are likely to be in the market for Rosario. The Royals and Angels were fourth and fifth-worst in the same metric – rebuilding and with outfield money committed respectively, those two teams will not be chasing Rosario.
The Boston Red Sox have reportedly shown interest in Rosario. Boston is set to lose Jackie Bradley Jr. a year after trading Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. Could Rosario handle the defensive challenges of Fenway Park? He’s not taking many DH at bats with J.D. Martinez around, that’s for sure.
Third-worst by outfield wins above average last season, the Detroit Tigers should have money to spend. There are outfield at bats up for grabs, too. Detroit isn’t going to be a contender in 2021, but a two-year contract for Rosario could work for them.
The Washington Nationals might be searching for a corner outfielder to partner Juan Soto. The 2019 World Series champions have work to do this offseason – Rosario would be a solid pick up for them as they look to bolster their offence.
Could the Astros bring Rosario in if Springer and Brantley walk? Rosario would be a nice fit there. Houston’s need for a couple of outfielders is obvious, and Rosario is a nice compromise if ownership is wary of handing out big contracts.
After scoring 3.73 runs per game in 2020 (second-fewest in MLB), the Rangers need to add bats this offseason. Rosario would be the second-best hitter in the line-up. Texas has just over $70 million committed for next season as it stands. They are not afraid to spend after pursuing Anthony Rendon last offseason and carrying a payroll of over $140 million in 2018. The Rangers are expected to be pushing for the bigger free agent signings, but they should consider a move for Rosario.