Coming into the 2017 MLB season, Eddie Rosario had shown flashes of useful power that were often hidden by his free swinging ways. Over the course of this season Rosario has made positive progress regarding his discipline at the plate, and it has resulted in a phenomenal season so far.
Through September 15th, Rosario is hitting a fantastic .294/.331/.507 with 30 doubles and 23 home runs while playing roughly average (to slightly-below average) defense in left field. Not only is his .839 OPS fantastic in its own right, his increased contact and walk rates are steep improvements from his previous two campaigns.
Rosario’s 5.9% walk rate in 2017 is his highest since he walked in 6.7% of his plate appearances at Double-A in 2013, and far more respectable than the 3.2% and 3.4% rates he posted in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Rosario’s newfound discipline comes from lowering his swings at pitches outside of the strike zone from a staggering 46.7% in 2015 and 44.5% in 2016 to a more solid 39.7% in 2017. Rosario is still a free swinger, and he always will be, but he has shown much better discipline leading to a higher average, more power, and a better walk rate.
These improvements at the plate have led many in Twins Territory to believe that Rosario has turned a corner in his development, becoming a legitimate offensive weapon that will be a cog in the Twins lineup for years to come.
But Rosario’s resurgence has also made him the Twins’ best trade chip going into the 2017-2018 off season.
Rosario as Trade Bait
There has been a lot of trade speculation regarding Brian Dozier in the past. With his second straight 30 home run season, Dozier’s name will likely pop up in rumors again this winter. But with no truly enticing offers last year, it would be a surprise to see Dozier get a bigger return now that he is a year older and has one less year of team control.
Rosario, on the other hand, goes into this off season as a 26-year-old left handed hitting corner outfielder (with the ability to fill in at center) who will not be a free agent until 2022. The combination of potential and team control makes Rosario the kind of player that reams like to go out and get.
The Twins also have more options to replace Rosario than they do Dozier. Dozier’s natural replacement would be Eduardo Escobar, who has more value as the team’s backup infielder—being able to spell Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Dozier while also getting at bats at DH. Nick Gordon struggled in the second half of 2017 at Double-A Chattanooga, and will likely need time at Triple-A in 2018, making the Twins’ starting-level middle infield depth a bit short for the time being if they were to move Dozier.
Rosario’s natural replacement would be Robbie Grossman, a legitimate major league hitter with little trade value of his own due to his lack of high-end power. Grossman’s power doesn’t really play as a designated hitter or left field, either, but his on base skills still make him a useful hitter whose defense this season has been comparable to Rosario’s in a small sample size. Shifting Grossman out of the designated hitter role helps keep his OBP in the lineup while also making room for potential free agent signings such as Carlos Santana, who has ties to Twins’ President of Baseball Operations and former Cleveland executive Derek Falvey. The Twins also have players like Zack Granite who has the potential to fill in at left field next year, and even Mitch Garver, who can play left field on occasion. Lamonte Wade and Brent Rooker are potential left fielders for the 2019 season as well.
Sweetening the Pot
While Rosario may not bring in much of a haul on his own, the Twins have a bevy of prospects who require 40-man roster spots this off season. Players who were 18 years of age and signed as a result of the 2013 draft, as well as players who were 19 years of age or older during the 2014 draft, need to be placed on their teams’ 40-man roster this off season or be subject to the Rule 5 draft.
For the Twins, these players include their best pitching prospect, Stephen Gonsalves, as well as former first round pick Kohl Stewart. Zach Littell, acquired for Jaime Garcia and the team’s 16th best prospect according to MLB.com, is another player needing protection.
Littell will likely start the 2018 season in Triple-A as a 22-year-old. While his talent provides great depth and potential for the Twins, he is also a solid trade chip considering his relatively young age for his play level.
A package of Rosario and Littell would be a solid base for a trade, although it would still likely require a blue chip (high end) prospect. Think RHP Fernando Romero, the previously mentioned Stephen Gonsalves, or even Nick Gordon. It would probably also need another low level prospect such as reliever Jake Reed (who also requires a 40 man spot this off season).
While the price of Rosario + Blue Chip Prospect + Littel + low level prospect seems steep, it is likely the price required just to even begin trade talks for a high-end starting pitcher such as the Rays’ Chris Archer this offseason.
I am not saying that the Twins should definitively go out and trade Rosario this off season. I don’t even know if anyone in the baseball world would share my assessment of Rosario’s value. His improvements this season point to the beginning of his prime. As a left handed hitter with pop who can hit left handed pitching relatively well (.284/.295/.404 against lefties this year and .281/.303/.411 for his career), Rosario has significant value for a Twins team that struggles against lefties. But so did Delmon Young after his .298/.333/.493 season in 2010, and we all know how that turned out for a player who had supposedly turned a corner in his career.
But as valuable as Rosario is for the Twins, he represents a similarly valuable and controllable asset for other teams as well, potentially making him a significant trade chip for a team that still needs high end pitching talent.
If dealing Eddie Rosario was necessary to acquire an ace pitcher this offseason, would you be willing to part with him or hope the Twins would stay put?