This offseason is setting up to be the least predictable in recent memory. With even contending teams desperate to cut costs, we’re starting to see some pretty talented players just sitting there for the taking. The Detroit Tigers and their low payroll are ideally positioned to take advantage. The question is whether they’re going to hunt bigger game this offseason or simply add some temporary help.
Take Minnesota Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario for example. Reports surfaced on Tuesday that the Twins have placed Rosario on outright waivers to avoid paying his estimated $9.6 million salary in his final year in arbitration. While the Twins could theoretically turn to a young outfielder in Alex Kirilloff making the league minimum, this may be an opportunity for a team like the Tigers, whose outfield has been fairly atrocious from an offensive perspective over the past few seasons.
One suggestion we’ve batted around behind the scenes is a play for former Los Angeles outfielder Joc Pederson to help solidify the outfield and provide some quality production at the plate. Projections from MLB Trade Rumors have suggested that Pederson would likely receive two year offers in the neighborhood of $16-20 million total. In Rosario, the Tigers could pick up a player of the same age and roughly similar skills, without making anything more than a one year commitment.
Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario is on outright waivers, sources tell The Athletic. The move is the clearest sign yet he will be non-tendered. Twins essentially giving him chance to be claimed by team that might pay him his projected arbitration salary of $9.6M. 1/1— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 2, 2020
Like Pederson, Rosario is in his late twenties, hits left-handed , and is generally restricted to a corner outfield slot, preferably in left field. Both hitters mash righthanded pitching and should be platooned against lefties, although Rosario’s case is much less extreme than Pederson’s. Rosario holds a career wRC+ of 88 against lefties, whereas Pederson holds a 59 wRC+ and has largely been protected from facing them throughout his career. The depth of the Dodgers roster has made it easy to keep to a strict platoon, but Rosario isn’t the same caliber of disaster against lefties. The Tigers could pair him with a veteran righthanded hitter to form a pretty darn good hybrid leftfielder, or use the opportunity to mix someone like Daz Cameron into the lineup.
Defensively, Rosario has also been a plus per defensive runs saved (DRS) in his career. Over the last three seasons he’s a combined plus six runs saved, which is pretty comparable to Pederson’s numbers. An ankle injury led to a rough season in 2019 from a defensive perspective, but he appeared to rebound in 2020. He’s not a particularly good outfielder, but you’re going to get average defense in left field to go with the thump he can provide at the dish.
Rosario has some flaws as a hitter, but he puts the ball in play a lot and hits plenty of home runs. He holds a strikeout rate of just over 14 percent over the last two seasons, which is far better than average. He’ll produce a lot of routine fly balls outs, and he doesn’t draw walks or generally get on base as well as Pederson, but the power numbers are pretty comparable. It’s also worth remembering that Rosario hasn’t had quite the same protection from left-handed pitchers. If the Tigers choose to play him in a more strict platoon, his damage per plate appearance could be enhanced.
Eddie Rosario 2017-2020
This seems like a pretty solid fit for the price
Honestly this feels like a decent move for Al Avila to make. The cost and commitment are pretty negligible, and they’d be getting a player entering his last year before free agency with all the motivation in the world to have a big year. The outfield is in rough shape, and Riley Greene and any further help that could come from the likes of Daniel Cabrera, Bryant Packard, or Parker Meadows is still at least a season away. If the Tigers have any hope of digging their way out of the cellar to a respectable level in 2021, they need to add some firepower.
Unless the team has decided to actually make a real move and go after a quality long-term solution for one of the outfield spots—which seems quite unlikely—Eddie Rosario is about as good as they’re going to do, and the terms are fairly favorable. Two of the most popular names to fill this role, Joc Pederson and Kyle Schwarber, would each cost a similar amount, and in Schwarber’s case, would require a modest prospect package to complete. Sure they both get on base more effectively than the free-swinging Rosario. They’re both better hitters to a small degree, but Rosario does provide comparable home run power.
Rosario is there for the taking. The Tigers could play him however they choose, allowing them the flexibility to mix their young outfielders in around him. Even if he is a bit overpriced in this market, it’s really a pretty tailor made solution that would boost the team’s offense, give them a minor trade chip at the deadline, and leave them unencumbered at season’s end either way, all without hampering their ability to pursue help in the infield and the pitching staff.
If the Tigers have a better idea in mind, well, we’re all ears.