Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Twins Other Moveable Asset

Update: With Aaron Hicks moved for John Ryan Murphy on November 11, Eddie Rosario (likely) won't be going anywhere for the Twins. Ideally, the club would have pulled off the same trade for Rosario, but his stock isn't high enough to command that type of return.

Should Miguel Sano start in left field with Trevor Plouffe not being traded, Terry Ryan could surprise us however. 

Heading into the offseason, there has been talk about the Minnesota Twins trading Trevor Plouffe more than any other player. To be fair, there's plenty of reasons that a trade would make sense. For everything surrounding Plouffe though, there's another guy that the Twins could look to deal, and the trades wouldn't necessarily need to be an either or. His name, Eddie Rosario.

Last season, Eddie Rosario made his big league debut for the Twins at the age of 23. he was the first big time prospect to make it to the big leagues (as I suggested), and he had himself in contention for Rookie of the Year honors by the time things were all said and done. The former fourth round pick, and once 60th rated prospect (in 2014 by Baseball Prospectus) enjoyed a season worthy of celebrating.

On the offensive side of things, Rosario led the big leagues with 15 triples, he cranked out 18 more doubles, and launched 13 homers. His .459 slugging percentage was impressive, and he provided an end of the order jolt to the Twins lineup. In the field, Rosario's presence may have been felt to an even greater extent. Starting 116 games in the outfield, the rookie contributed 16 outfield assists while accounting for 11 DRS (defensive runs saved). His 7.4 UZR (ultimate zone rating) was truly indicative of the ground he covered behind Twins pitchers. In short, Rosario did it all for the Twins in 2015.

With any situation however, there's detractors, and for Rosario they come in the form of future regression. Although his .459 slugging percentage was impressive, he hit just .267, and worse, owned just a .289 on base percentage. Rosario fanned 118 times in 122 games and walked just 15 times last season. The problem stems from the fact that Rosario swung at pitches outside of the strike zone 46% of the time a season ago. He also swung and missed at 14.5% of pitches he saw. Knowing he produced a .332 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), the swing and miss tendencies could produce even worse results.

Going forward, it's probably fair to assume that Rosario refines his approach. Across six minor league seasons, Rosario hit .291/.340/.480. In the minors, he never struck out more than 96 times in a season, and he routinely walked somewhere around 25 times a year. The hope would be that with a big league tour under his belt, this winter would be one of advancement for the young Twins prospect.

Trading Rosario may have less to do with his future performance than it does with what he has currently done, and the landscape of the Twins. Regardless of whether the Twins put Miguel Sano in the outfield or not, the club still has Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Oswaldo Arcia looking for playing time. There's little doubt defensively that Rosario helps to make up the best three, but his greatest level of return may be in advancing the Twins as a whole.

It's far from a forgone conclusion that Buxton starts the year with the Twins, and Hicks still has plenty to improve upon in his own right. Kepler is almost certain to start 2016 at Triple-A, and Arcia remains an absolute wild card. What the grouping does give the Twins is a very real opportunity at a strong outfield each and every night. Operating under the belief that Kepler and Buxton are untouchable, it's Rosario that no doubt provides the biggest return.

Looking to raise the ceiling of the club as a whole, Rosario could be dealt straight up, or packaged with other assets, for another impact position of need. Moving Arcia now would be a definite sell low opportunity (and being out of options makes him even less valuable). There would likely be a market for Hicks, but in looking like a late-bloomer, the Twins would run the risk of someone else experiencing his success.

At the end of the day, Trevor Plouffe being dealt frees up space for Sano without moving to the outfield. It helps to alleviate the problem, but doesn't remove the fact that Minnesota has more capable options in the outfield than positions to play them. If an asset needs to be moved, looking at Rosario and understanding the return expected, the 24 year-old would make a lot of sense.