But Seriously -- What Should the Twins do with Eddie Rosario?

Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Sometime around midseason, I found Matthew Trueblood of Baseball Prospectus hanging out in the row behind me in the press box at Target Field. He’ll turn up from time to time to talk to perhaps a visiting player or even a Minnesota Twin about something he’s seen, and invariably will turn that into some piece of analysis I could only dream of mimicking.

Our conversations tend to be brief and wide-ranging, but it was in a recent tweet that he reminded me that he was probably the first one I told my harebrained idea to:

“The Twins should really trade Eddie Rosario this winter,” I told him. I detailed the reasons — I don’t think he’s really a Falvey/Levine-type player, I think they would rather allocate his future earnings towards pitching and the team has a few outfield prospects who are close to ready — and he listened politely before telling me he wasn’t totally sure he was on board.

All good. If I’ve learned anything in doing this, you have to be ready for someone to not agree with what you say. It’s a badge of courage, really, since at least someone is listening to your ideas in the first place, right?

Maybe a month later, I decided to write it up. In an article entitled “The Case for Trading Eddie Rosario this Winter” — dated Aug. 26, mind you — I laid out the ideas I’d more or less left at Trueblood’s feet, mostly to see how the general public would react.

It went a lot like this: “He’s one of our best players are you some kind of idiot?” Fair enough.

Again, it comes with the territory. If you have a feeling or opinion that you feel strong enough to put out there, it really isn’t shaken too much by people not liking it. At the end of the day, I spend way too much time thinking about Twins lineups versus left-handed pitchers and what the team might do with the new 26th man on the roster next year — at least more than anyone not drawing a team-issued paycheck has any reason to do.

Then the season ended abruptly in October and people started to get on board with the idea. Cool.

I wrote my Twins blueprint a month ago and said to trade Rosario for Colorado righty Jon Gray — another name you’ll hear a lot of — with Minnesota kicking in whatever prospects the Rockies deemed necessary. Cool.

Now that it seems like everyone and their cousin is on board, I’ve started walking the idea back.

OK, but how about…..not trading Rosario? But why?

Let’s unpack some ideas here.

Oct 7, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins right fielder Eddie Rosario (20) greets third base coach Tony Diaz (46) after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning of game three of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series against the New York Yankees at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, eighth-place MVP vote be damned, it’s fair to question what Rosario’s value is around the league. Fangraphs WAR pegged him as a plus-1.2-win player this season. Baseball Reference was only marginally kinder at plus-1.6.

Two hitters come to mind when I think about Rosario comps off the top of my head — Toronto’s Randal Grichuk on the lower end and Arizona’s David Peralta on the higher.

Peralta was terrific in 2018 — .293/.352/.516 for a wRC+ of 131 — which drove his career line to a 116 wRC+, but try to tell me who is who between Rosario and Grichuk from these career numbers:

  • .279/.309/.479 (105 wRC+)
  • .244/.293/.483 (105 wRC+)

If you follow the Twins semi-closely the batting average will probably give it away, but at the end of the day, it’s a pair of power-hitting outfielders who can handle center but are probably better in a corner. That might even be a rosy — sorry — view of Rosario, who has seen his corner metrics tumble in recent seasons, but they’re definitely similar players if you don’t have your cheaters on.

The Toronto Blue Jays traded for Grichuk from the St. Louis Cardinals, and then for whatever reason decided to give him a five-year deal worth $52 million. He’ll head into his age-28 season next year due the following salaries:

  • 2020 – $13 million
  • 2021 – $10.333 million
  • 2022 – $10.333 million
  • 2023 – $10.333 million

…and beyond that, he has some incentives for if he reaches a certain number of plate appearances. The long and short of it is that he’s due $44 million between now and his age-31 season.

Peralta just finished his age-31 season — one in which he made $7 million — and MLB Trade Rumors has predicted he’ll make $8.8 million in arbitration this offseason before hitting free agency a year from now.

Rosario is pegged to make $8.9 million in 2020 by the same projections, and that’ll only rise with even a decent season next year before he hits free agency.

So what do we know based on this? For one, Rosario isn’t a particularly cheap version of the kind of player he is. Peralta is considerably better — hence the “poor-man’s Peralta” moniker for Rosario — and will cost less this year, and there isn’t even the cost certainty part baked in with Rosario like there is for Toronto with Grichuk.

Now that cuts both ways, of course. The Twins could cut Rosario tomorrow and not be out a single cent. Toronto would be out nearly $45 million and the Diamondbacks would be in the clear but short a really good player, whereas the Twins could wash their hands of Rosario but it wouldn’t necessarily make sense one way or the other. He’s an obviously flawed player, but that doesn’t make him worthless in any way.

So, what if he doesn’t really have any value on the market? It doesn’t make sense to move him just to move him. Marwin Gonzalez isn’t exactly an outfielder, and the platoon potential of Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. won’t necessarily make anyone’s socks roll up and down. Sure, there’s free agency, but difference-making players want multiple years — something the Twins are wont to do with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach in the pipeline, most likely.

But keeping Rosario? Won’t that just mean he’ll be in the way?

Not necessarily. First of all, again, why trade him when his value around the league — which is unclear to us in the public sector but clearly very well known by those in front-office positions — won’t return much? “But couldn’t he further tank his value,” you ask? Well, not really. Again, the Twins could simply non-tender him a year from now and the net effect would be roughly the same, since this alleged trade return wasn’t going to be much to sneeze at.

But maybe there is a marketplace out there for Rosario. One of the most dangerous things a general manager can do with a big trade is get too wound up on positions of players he gets back rather than getting back just plain old good baseball players. However, this is most true when trading a prospect package for someone like Christian Yelich — would you really have a team’s top prospect who is a shortstop, or go with their No. 10 guy who is a catcher because that’s what you really need? — rather than a big-league challenge trade.

The Twins need pitching, even after Jake Odorizzi opted to accept his qualifying offer.

And while Twins fans would love to see the team sign three more difference makers and make the Houston Astros truly worried about them in October, the reality is that this front office is going to get creative. They’ll always be that way. They’re innovators. They signed Michael Pineda knowing it could be 14 months before he’d throw a pitch for them. They made great moves like trading from a surplus of shortstop prospects to get Odorizzi. They made moves that didn’t pan out — but on paper, should have — like signing Lance Lynn to a one-year deal when his market for some reason tanked.

He sure made Texas look smart when he finished fifth in the American League Cy Young race the other night, right?

So the natural question is if the Twins do decide they want to trade Rosario, and they can get back pitching, that sort of makes sense, right?

So….why not think about Miami here for a second…

In 2017, Rosario made the jump from hitting .269/.295/.421 in his sophomore season (86 wRC+) to hitting .290/.328/.507 (117), and he did it under a new hitting coach. That’s right, you know where I’m going with this.

Aug 4, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins hitting coach James Rowson (82) during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

James Rowson is the new bench coach and offensive coordinator for the Miami Marlins. And frankly, who wouldn’t look better in Miami than Rosario, whose homeland of Puerto Rico is a short 150-minute flight away from there?

To play devil’s advocate again for just a second — here’s where it could be interesting for the Twins again. Once again, assuming that teams are only offering pitchers or players who don’t really move the needle in a deal for Rosario, it could be interesting to see what he does under a new hitting voice for the Twins — be it Rudy Hernandez moving up to the main role or whomever the Twins decide to hire.

That’s not at all to say there was stagnancy in the relationship between Rowson and Rosario, but rather that again, there isn’t much to waste but a year of plate appearances if the difference there is a throwaway trade or a non-tender on the negative end on each side.

But there are far worse teams to be looking to grab pitching from than the Miami Marlins, too.

The goal should be to aim for Sandy Alcantara, but the reality is whomever the analytics team under Falvey and Levine like from a list of him, Pablo Lopez, Caleb Smith, Jordan Yamamoto or Jose Urena is probably the place to start negotiating from.

From this vantage point, Alcantara is the trophy to focus on. And kudos to Patrick Wozniak from Twins Daily for mentioning him as well. Patrick does some terrific work over there.

But Alcantara turned 24 in the final month of the season, and represented the Marlins in the Midsummer Classic while throwing nearly 200 innings in his first full MLB campaign. The numbers range from “really good” to “OK, so that’s how Urena has looked at times, as well” but there’s a lot to dream on here:

  • 197.1 innings
  • 6.9 K/9
  • 3.7 BB/9
  • 44.6% GB rate
  • 1.05 HR/9
  • 3.88 ERA/4.55 FIP/5.17 xFIP
  • 10.8 percent swinging-strike rate

Alcantara sits in the mid-to-upper-90s with his fastball, and breaks off a slider most often as his breaking pitch. The slider was hit a little bit last year, but nothing severe — .232/.271/.423 — and it carries a 13.6 percent swinging-strike rate which definitely can be dreamt on a bit.

In all, it’s a confusing profile but when factoring in age, it feels like the exact kind of pitcher a team should be dreaming on.

Are these the same Marlins who have in recent seasons have traded Chris Paddack and Luis Castillo? If so, does that mean the Twins already have found money in Chris Vallimont from the Sergio Romo deal?

It’ll probably take more, but the Twins should definitely try to focus on Alcantara in any deal, sweetening it with prospects to get something done with Rosario. The Marlins have been noted as potentially interested in corner outfielders this season — such as Yasiel Puig and/or Nicholas Castellanos.

If the Marlins can’t make it happen by simply offering cash to free agents that’s when the Twins should swoop in and see if they can make it happen. If the analytics guys upstairs are called on because Alcantara is a no-go and they really like Smith, Lopez or Yamamoto, it’s not that hard to switch gears, either.

So what should happen with Rosario this offseason? There isn’t a hard and fast rule or an obviously right answer. But it’ll take creativity — and that’s something this Twins team has in spades.

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