Brent Rooker was hitting .316/.381/.579 before he fractured his forearm and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. The Minnesota Twins will have to evaluate if his contributions in seven games were enough to give him a permanent roster spot, but with a full outfield and two backups in LaMonte Wade and Jake Cave how would he fit into the mix?
The most obvious player to be moved, if Rooker would be able to step up full time, is Eddie Rosario. For the last few seasons, there has been talk about moving Rosario, but they have no solid backup to take his spot.
If the Twins are stuck with the situation of having to decide what outfielders to keep and who to trade, they will have to do so while keeping past decisions in mind. The safest option is to retain Rosario, 28, because they know what they can get from him. But at the same time, Rooker’s could become a better player than Rosario, and he’ll cost less due to his rookie contract.
The Twins drafted Rooker 35th overall in 2017 out of Mississippi State. Rooker, 25, spent three seasons in the minors, hitting .267/.357/.505 at four different levels and was ready for his opportunity. During the 2018 season, Rooker he played exclusively at Double-A, hit 22 home runs and drove in 79 runs while hitting his lowest slash line average in the minors, .254/.333/.465.
If his 2018 season is his floor in the majors then he will find a spot on the roster without a problem, and in 19 at-bats he showed he could hold his own against major league pitchers.
With Rooker the only question how does he fit on the current Twins roster? His talents are more deserving of a full-time spot instead of a backup like Wade or Cave, so an established outfielder will have to be moved.
Why not Buxton or Rosario?
In 2015 the Twins traded outfielder Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy, who only ended up playing 26 games for Minnesota. Meanwhile, Hicks would go on to have big seasons with the Yankees and be a big part of their outfield between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. They have to avoid making the same mistake with Rosario.
If they move Rosario, the Twins will have to be positive that Rooker can fill the spot that Rosario currently fills next to Buxton and Kepler.
They could shop Buxton and Rosario, but Buxton is one of the best outfielders in all of baseball and is starting to find his swing, while Kepler is already locked into a contract until the end of the 2024 season. Both are also younger than Rosario and entering their prime while Rosario’s best season, 2019, could be behind him.
Rosario vs. Rooker
Rosario will go into his third year of arbitration before the 2021 season, and if the Twins do not lock him in long term, he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022. Either way, Rosario would have to prove that he can repeat his best seasons if the Twins decide to keep him.
The decision becomes much more complicated now that Rooker is out the remainder of the season. Without more time to see how he adjusts to the majors, the Twins will be left with a gamble on whether or not to deal Rosario.
The other question they must then ask themselves is whether or not the upside to Rooker is more than what they are getting with Rosario. This especially is something to think about because Rosario is only three years older than Rooker.
The Twins are doing everything in their power to win now, and dealing Rosario in order to bolster the roster might be the best case given that Rooker has shown that he can perform in the majors.
With the Twins on an 100-win pace, this could be their best chance to win a World Series. The only question they will have to ask themselves is who will be on the roster when they hopefully play a full 162 next summer?