Minnesota Twins Should Trade Eddie Rosario
The Minnesota Twins were certainly one of the surprises of the 2019 MLB season. With a rookie manager and a core of former top prospects, most thought the Twins were just a few years from being contenders. Even the most optimistic Twins fans didn’t predict the offensive explosion that occurred this year, though. Minnesota hit 307 home runs, one more than the New York Yankees, to set the MLB single-season record. Confidence was high all around the organization after winning their first AL Central pennant since 2010.
While the Twins were able to out-mash the Yankees during the regular season, the Bronx Bombers easily swept Minnesota out of the ALDS yet again. After a highly entertaining 101 win regular season, it was clear watching those three games that something needs to be done to make the final step from division winner to legitimate World Series contender. The first step in what should be an active offseason: trade outfielder and cleanup hitter Eddie Rosario.
Regression At the Plate
There is no denying that Eddie Rosario is an incredibly talented player, one capable of carrying a team when he’s focused. When he was a young player, the hope was that he would show more focus. In 2018 we saw him take a step forward in that regard, but this season saw some regression. His OBP dropped from .323 to .300, good for 128th out of 135 qualified hitters. This is particularly concerning because as plate discipline typically improves with experience, the stats and the eye test both suggest that Rosario’s is getting worse.
While they set the home run record, the Twins were 10th in the American League in walks with 525. Their historic lineup could score even more runs if they improved their balance of power and on-base ability. There is no real top of the order type hitter on the roster besides maybe Luis Arraez. Replacing Rosario in the lineup with a high-OBP hitter could turn solo home runs into two-run blasts. This will set the table for more crooked numbers. A true leadoff hitter would also allow Max Kepler and Mitch Garver to move down and replace Rosario in the middle of the order, where their power would be better utilized.
Rosario’s declining plate discipline is concerning, but his defensive regression is horrific to look at. Most Twins fans would agree that Rosario was an absolute liability in the outfield this year. He routinely made horrible throws, and his athleticism did not translate to good outfield defense. Analytics agree; DRS shows that Rosario was worth -9 runs to the Twins on defense.
As good as the Twins offense was in 2019, they were extremely poor on defense. They committed 111 errors, third-most in the American League. While errors aren’t always the best indicator of defensive performance, it was clear when watching that the Twins struggled. The only truly great defensive players on the team were fellow outfielders Byron Buxton and Kepler. The defense must improve to become true contenders in 2020, and replacing Rosario’s poor glove would be a start.
The Twins have a massive advantage going into the offseason with one of the best farm systems in baseball. The quality depth throughout the organization gives the front office lots of ammo to go out and fix the starting rotation. While it is more common for contending teams to trade prospects for proven big-league talent, trading Rosario would be the better option for the Twins for two reasons:
First, despite his regressing plate discipline and defense, he is still a quality player in his prime with MLB experience. That makes him more valuable to other teams than a prospect who is unproven at the big league level. Rosario plus a few mid-level prospects could be enough to fetch the Twins a solid second starter behind Jose Berrios.
Second, the Twins two star corner outfield prospects both have the opportunity to be all-star caliber players. Alex Kirilloff has maybe the best hit tool in the minors, and would immediately improve the Twins on-base numbers. He’s a solid athlete who also could transition to first base if the Twins need a long-term answer there. Trevor Larnach doesn’t have quite the same franchise-altering potential as Kirilloff but still appears on many top 100 prospect lists after a big season between High-A and Double-A. Both are similar players-great to elite hitters who should also hit for power while providing solid but not spectacular outfield defense. Either player would be an improvement on Rosario’s poor on-base skills and defense while still providing some power.
Smart teams trade from positions of strength to help fix positions of weakness. The Minnesota Twins have shown themselves to be a smart team over the past few years. While Rosario is a quality player and certainly fun to watch, the opportunity to flip him for pitching help and replace him with a young superstar prospect is one the Twins should certainly look into.