As the non-tender deadline nears, the Minnesota Twins have reportedly placed Eddie Rosario on outright waivers. Could the SF Giants place a claim on the left-handed-hitting outfielder?
With the Wednesday non-tender deadline looming, the Minnesota Twins have placed outfielder Eddie Rosario on outright waivers, according to a report by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Entering his final season of arbitration, any MLB team could place a claim on Rosario and acquire him if they agreed to tender him a contract. Always on the lookout for good hitters, the SF Giants could be an intriguing fit.
Rosario has been consistently above-average at the plate over his six-year career. Since 2016, Rosario has hit .281/.317/.493 with 96 home runs in 2002 plate appearances. In the pandemic shortened 2020 season, Rosario managed a solid .257/.316/.457 triple-slash, but was particularly impressive against right-handed hitters. Rosario blasted all 13 of his home runs this season when he had the platoon advantage, carrying his .882 OPS against righties.
While he technically played all outfield spots early in his career, Rosario has lost a step defensively and is limited to left field at this point in his career. Even there, he has graded as below average by statistics like Outs Above Average. Still, Rosario’s offensive game more than makes up for his shortcomings and he remains an above-average starting left fielder.
However, playing in the Twins stacked lineup, Rosario has racked up runs batted in. The archaic arbitration formula, which still focuses on more traditional statistics like RBI, tends to value players like Rosario more than most big-league clubs. While obviously a competent starter, estimated to command a roughly $10 million salary in arbitration, the Twins are prepared to give him away for nothing.
If Rosario goes unclaimed, which probably is the most likely scenario, he will become a free agent and would likely sign for a deal closer to $6 million in annual salary. Still, if a team considered Rosario a top target, they might be willing to pay a slight premium to ensure they acquired him. It’s worth pointing out that a team could try to sign Rosario to an extension at a lower average annual value as well. Given the state of the free-agent market, he could conceivably be open to a two-year, $15 million or even a three-year, $20 million deal with a club option.
The Giants have obviously shored up their corner outfield quite a bit following the emergence of players like Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, and Darin Ruf. However, with the exception of Yastrzemski, platoon struggles and long injury histories make it hard to count on any players in the group. It’s conceivable that Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris could still target a more trustworthy option like Rosario.
Rosario has always combined his strong power with an impressive ability to put the ball in play. Over the past two seasons, he has struck out in less than 15% of his plate appearances. Historically that has come at the expense of walks. That changed in 2020 when his walk rate jumped to a career-high 8.2%. At the same time, his batting average on balls in play dipped to a career-low .248.
Assuming Rosario could maintain his increased walk rate while experiencing some better batted-ball luck, it’s not inconceivable that he could be primed to take his performance to another level in 2021. Now, there are some reasonable concerns as well. Rosario’s expected batting average and expected slugging percentage, according to Baseball Savant, both suggested he was actually a bit lucky and was actually a slightly below-average hitter at the plate in 2020. Rosario has outperformed those metrics pretty consistently throughout his career, but they obviously quell some optimism.
There’s a reasonable argument to be made on either side. Rosario is an experienced big-league veteran but just turned 29 years old in September. The fact that he managed to increase his walk-rate while maintaining his ability to put the ball in play and hit for power does bode well for the sustainability of some of those successes. Of course, limited defensively, it would be hard to justify giving him playing time over someone like Dickerson if he regressed.
The SF Giants have cycled through outfielders quite a bit over the past couple of seasons. While they’ve found a number of possible options to start opposite Mike Yastrzemski, Minnesota Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario would provide a stable everyday option if the team was willing to guarantee him a sizable salary.