The Blue Jays have some level of interest in Amed Rosario, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes that the veteran infielder is “on the team’s radar,” and that “under the right circumstances” Rosario could be a fit for Toronto’s roster. These conditionals seem to imply that multi-positional players like Rosario or Isiah Kiner-Falefa (another known player of interest for the Jays) could perhaps be fallback options if the Blue Jays can’t land one of their primary targets for their vacancies at second and third base.
Rosario was one of baseball’s top minor leaguers during his time in the Mets’ farm system, universally seen as a top-10 prospect heading into the 2017 season. A lack of inconsistency over his first four MLB seasons ultimately made the Mets willing to part ways, though Rosario held enough value that he was still one of the key pieces of the four-player trade package New York sent to Cleveland for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco in January 2021.
The change of scenery seemed to work out, as Rosario hit .282/.316/.406 with 22 home runs and 31 steals (in 35 attempts) over 1258 plate appearances during the 2021-22 seasons. Between this above-average (103 wRC+) offensive production and some passable defense, Rosario generated 5.2 fWAR for the Guardians over those two seasons as their regular shortstop.
2023 was much more of a struggle, as Rosario hit only .263/.305/.378 over 545 total PA with the Guardians and Dodgers. A deadline trade to Los Angeles didn’t get Rosario’s bat on track, though his new role as a second baseman showed some promising results in a small sample size. Rosario had +3 Defensive Runs Saved and a +18.2 UZR/150 over 190 innings at second base in L.A., which marked the first time he had played the position in his big league career.
Public defensive metrics had generally been down on Rosario’s shortstop glovework throughout his career, and last season represented a nadir of -16 DRS, -4.4 UZR/150, and -14 Outs Above Average. It was a disappointing setback after Rosario had very impressive DRS and UZR/150 numbers as a shortstop in 2022, and it could hint that Rosario’s defensive future is ultimately at the keystone. Rosario has also gotten some limited playing time in left and center field, so he could be more of a utility player even if he isn’t a defensive standout as an outfielder.
MLBTR ranked Rosario 39th on our list of the offseason’s top 50 free agents, projecting a two-year, $18MM deal even in the wake of his lackluster 2023 season. The combination of Rosario’s age (28), his past top-prospect pedigree, and the overall thin middle infield market factored into the prediction of a multi-year contract, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see him land just a one-year “prove it” type of contract. Such a deal might appeal to Rosario and his reps at Octagon as well, as a bounce-back in 2024 could then line Rosario up for a more lucrative multi-year contract as a free agent next winter.
In Toronto, Rosario would essentially be a replacement for Whit Merrifield — a right-handed hitter mostly slotted for second base but who could also fill in for Daulton Varsho or Kevin Kiermaier in left or center field when a southpaw starter is on the mound. Rosario also brings a lot of speed and good contact numbers, as evidenced by a solid 22.1% strikeout rate.
However, as Nicholson-Smith’s report hinted, there are some reasons why the Blue Jays might not necessarily have Rosario at the top of their wishlist. His subpar numbers in 2023 don’t represent much of an upgrade for a Toronto team whose offense struggled last year, and it can be argued that the Jays already have comparable internal options at second base. The group of Cavan Biggio, Davis Schneider, Santiago Espinal, and Ernie Clement are still on the roster, and prospects Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger, or Leo Jimenez could all make their MLB debuts perhaps rather early in the 2024 campaign. Most players in this group are better suited for second base than third base, so signing Rosario for at least a semi-regular keystone role would create a bit of a logjam for the Jays.
The Blue Jays’ pursuit of Shohei Ohtani dominated the headlines and seemingly much of the team’s attention for the first portion of the offseason, but the Jays made their first big move of the winter just yesterday as news broke of the club’s reunion with Kiermaier on a one-year deal. Beyond Rosario and Kiner-Falefa, such infielders as Jonathan India, Jake Cronenworth, Justin Turner, Rhys Hoskins, and Isaac Paredes have been linked to the Blue Jays on the rumor mill, plus re-signing third baseman Matt Chapman remains a possibility. With Kiermaier’s return helping solidify the outfield picture, Toronto’s focus may now shift to addressing their needs in the infield and at DH.