The Rays deepened their infield mix with yesterday’s signing of Amed Rosario to a one-year contract, but despite the 28-year-old’s experience as a starting shortstop in both Cleveland and in New York, he’ll be ticketed for a multi-position role with his new club. Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that Rosario will likely see time at both middle infield spots and in the outfield corners. Trade acquisition Jose Caballero, meanwhile, is still viewed as the starter at shortstop due to his superior glovework.
Injuries and/or performance can always change those plans, particularly with the entirety of spring training still to play out, but it seems Rosario will be used to spell several players and to boost the team’s production against left-handed pitching. The righty-swinging veteran is a career .298/.339/.467 hitter against lefties (121 wRC+) but has posted a rather hollow .262/.296/.374 line in his career against right-handed pitching.
Entering the 2023 season, Rosario looked like he could be in line for a notable multi-year deal once he reached free agency. From 2021-22, he’s posted a solid .282/.316/.406 batting line (103 wRC+) with enough defensive aptitude to be valued between 5.2 wins above replacement (via FanGraphs) and 6.2 WAR (Baseball Reference). He stumbled with a .263/.305/.378 slash in 2023, however, and seemingly wasn’t able to find a team willing to put down a significant bet that he could rebound to his previous status as a viable starter at the shortstop position.
The move to a utility role will be a new one for Rosario, who’s played the overwhelming majority of his career at shortstop. He logged 190 innings with the Dodgers at second base in 2023, following a deadline swap that sent him to L.A. in exchange for Noah Syndergaard, and he logged a combined 171 innings in the outfield from 2019-22 with the Mets and Guardians. Rosario has just 48 career innings in left field and none in right field. He’s tallied more than 6400 innings at shortstop in his career. While Rosario lacks experience in the outfield, he does still rank in the 95th percentile of MLB players in terms of sprint speed, per Statcast, so he should have the raw ability to cover ground in the corners. His route-running will presumably be a point of focus in camp.
Rosario’s addition helps the Rays take a more patient approach with a number of their young infielders. Junior Caminero and Curtis Mead are widely considered to be among the game’s top prospects (Caminero, in particular), and the Rays also have young infielders Jonathan Aranda, Osleivis Basabe and Austin Shenton on the 40-man roster. Aranda is down to his final minor league option year and probably ticketed for a big league look to begin the season, but the others each have multiple options remaining.