Cleveland Spends Some Dough, Brings in Slugger Rosario

In one of the bigger surprises in a brutal offseason for Cleveland Indians fans, the front office stunned the disappointed fan base by spending some money, inking free agent outfielder Eddie Rosario to a one-year, $8 million contract for the 2021 season.

With the cash-strapped Tribe seemingly more committed to building a roster on the cheap, Cleveland addressed a multi-year organizational position of weakness by bringing in the familiar Rosario, who had spent the last six years patrolling the outfield of the division rival Minnesota Twins.

The 29-year-old was set to enter his final season of arbitration eligibility following the 2020 season, but the Twins elected instead to cut him loose instead of seeing where his salary may escalate to after his $7.75 million commitment on last year’s books (projections ranged from $8.6 million to as high as $12.9 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors). With outfield prospects knocking on the door in the Twin Cities in Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker (both of whom debuted briefly at times during the 2020 season), the Twins elected to go cheaper and placed their regular left fielder for the last half dozen seasons on waivers. He cleared outright waivers unclaimed and was non-tendered ahead of that deadline.

Rosario posted some career numbers in 2019 and still made some noise during the shortened 2020 season. In 57 games for the Twins, he supplied a .257/.316/.476 slash with 13 homers and 42 RBI, the latter being eighth-best in the American League. While his batting average fell to a career-low, he did keep his strikeout rate in much better check than earlier in his career and he saw a good jump in his walk rate, boasting a career-high 8.2% mark as he did better to cut back on the number of pitches that he swung at, drawing more walks and trying to be more selective about the pitches that he tried to put in play.

The left-handed hitting outfielder joined the Twins organization as a fourth round selection in the 2010 amateur draft out of Rafael Lopez Landron High school in Guayama, Puerto Rico. He reached the Majors with the club in 2015, notably homering in his first game that season. He finished sixth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting that season and led the league with 15 triples, but saw his power and run production increase as the years progressed as his game moved away from speed. In 2017, he doubled his career home run production with 27, nearly did the same in doubles with 33, and added 78 RBI and a .290 batting average, still the best of his career. The following season, he nearly matched that output again with 31 doubles, 24 homers, 77 RBI, and a .288 average in 13 fewer games played. His 2019 season included 28 doubles and career-highs with 32 homers and 109 RBI.

Rosario marks the second bigger free agent addition by the club, following the team’s recent signing of second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who returns to Cleveland for a second season in 2021. The contracts tendered helped to close a discouraging gap for fans regarding the front office’s spending compared to the other 29 teams in the game. Rosario is the second-highest paid member of the Indians organization for the coming season, trailing only Jose Ramirez’s $9.4 million figure.

Rosario is certainly a well-known face to the Indians organization – in 93 career games against the Tribe, he has posted a .301/.337/.560 triple slash with 17 doubles, four triples, 22 homers, and 47 RBI. While he will not get to face Cleveland pitching this time around, he may benefit from playing in the city, as he owns a lifetime .353/.379/.653 line over 45 games at Progressive Field with 12 doubles, three triples, eleven homers, and 25 RBI.

Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

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