If you’re a New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers fan, these next two sentences probably doesn’t compute. Whether to keep or trade a player doesn’t depend on his salary. All that matters is whether he can help you win more than whatever you can get for him. That makes the trade deadline relatively simple.
If you follow the Cleveland Guardians or the Tampa Bay Rays, or the Oakland A’s when they were still trying, you know that the rules around the trade deadline are different. Rule #1 for “small market” teams is that if a highly paid veteran can be replaced without impacting the win-loss record, you make that trade. Payroll dollars need to be treated like precious assets, only to be spent on players who make a difference.
Which brings us to Cleveland’s Amed Rosario. Rosario has played a key role in the success of the Guardians over the past few years, but so far this season he has posted a negative bWAR (minus-0.3), which hasn’t been helped by the fact that he grades out as the worst defensive shortstop in the major leagues. For a team that scratches for runs, having a middle infielder who doesn’t get to as many grounders as a replacement-level shortstop is a serious problem, especially when 80 percent of the Opening Day rotation is either injured or in the minors.
That problem is compounded by the fact that Rosario is the third-highest paid player on the Guardians (at $7.8 million this season) and due to be a free agent this winter. Add in the fact that Tyler Freeman, who would be first in line as a replacement if Rosario were traded, has a higher OPS than Rosario and has posted a positive WAR for the season in only 75 at-bats. Defensive whiz Gabriel Arias might also see some playing time at short if Rosario is traded. Down the line, top prospect Brayan Rocchio might be better than any of them as soon as next year.
In other words, Amed Rosario is expendable for the Cleveland Guardians
More importantly, there is no reason for the Guardians to consider keeping him after this season, and the money he is owed for the rest of the season can be put toward extensions for some of the players who can help this team contend down the road. After all, money is always a finite resource for this team.
Would a contender have a use for him? Well, he does hit left-handers very well, so as part of a platoon or as a DH, maybe. Would he fetch a big haul of prospects? Probably not, but in a similar situation at the trade deadline in 2010, Cleveland traded pitcher Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals in a three-team deal that netted an unheralded minor leaguer from the Padres. That guy turned out to be Corey Kluber, who won two Cy Youngs for Cleveland.
The lesson here is clear: you are spending serious money for a player who isn’t helping you win, and you have cheaper options on the roster who can provide at least as much value. The Guardians need to make the best trade they can for Amed Rosario, and find out if their prospects are ready to help them contend.