The Rays added to their infield on Tuesday afternoon, signing Amed Rosario to a one-year contract. The Octagon client is reportedly guaranteed $1.5MM and can unlock an additional $500K in incentives. Tampa Bay placed Drew Rasmussen, who is recovering from flexor surgery, on the 60-day injured list in a corresponding move.
Rosario, 28, has been an everyday big league shortstop for many years but is coming off a challenging season. He started the year with the Guardians but was hitting just .265/.306/.369 when the deadline was approaching, with that production translating to a wRC+ of 87. His shortstop defense had always been questionable but it became downright problematic in 2023. He was tagged with grades of -16 Defensive Runs Saved and -15 Outs Above Average with Cleveland.
The Guards flipped him to the Dodgers for Noah Syndergaard, and Rosario’s new club moved him to the other side of the bag most of the time. He seemed to take well to the position switch, at least in a small sample of 190 innings, producing 3 DRS and OAA at an even zero. His bat was roughly the same, as he hit .256/.301/.408 as a Dodger for a wRC+ of 93.
He was a notably better in the two prior seasons. He hit 11 home runs in both 2021 and 2022, a modest number but much better than the six he hit in 2023. He slashed .282/.316/.406 in those two years with Cleveland for a 103 wRC+, not walking much but also avoiding strikeouts, 4.5% walk rate and 18.4% strikeout rate.
Defensively, he had a positive grade from DRS in 2022 but has otherwise always been subpar. OAA has had him in negative territory in each full season of his career. He probably won’t be an everyday option for the Rays at shortstop but he might see some occasional time there.
The Rays love flexibility and have a big hole at shortstop thanks to the absence of Wander Franco, who has an uncertain future as he’s under investigation for having a relationship with an underage girl. In addition to that, Taylor Walls is recovering from hip surgery and will miss at least part of the season. President of baseball operations Erik Neander recently suggested that José Caballero could be the starter to begin the year.
The club also has prospect Junior Caminero, who is generally considered one of the top 10 prospects in the sport and has already made his major league debut. But his bat is considered superior to his defense and some evaluators expect him to wind up at third base rather than short. Osleivis Basabe is in the mix but he didn’t hit much in his first taste of the majors or Triple-A. They added Yu Chang on a minor league deal earlier today to provide some non-roster depth.
Caballero, acquired from the Mariners in the Luke Raley deal, has just 280 MLB plate appearances and slashed just .221/.343/.320 in those. He has some speed, having swiped 26 bags in 29 tries last year, and the defense seems to be good, 4 DRS and 2 OAA thus far. But overall, the Rays don’t have a ton of solid answers for their shortstop position and Rosario could perhaps factor in there.
But if his days at that position are no more, there are still ways for him to be useful for the Rays. The right-handed hitter has wide platoon splits in his career, having hit .298/.339/.467 against lefties for a 121 wRC+ but just .262/.296/.374 the rest of the time for a wRC+ of 84.
The Rays have a left-handed hitting second baseman in Brandon Lowe and he also fares better with the platoon advantage. He’s hit .220/.284/.437 against southpaws, 99 wRC+, but produced a huge line of .253/.349/.499 and 135 wRC+ against righties. He’s also had notable injury setbacks in his career, with 2021 being his only season in the big leagues where he played in more than 109 games. A platoon of Lowe and Rosario at the keystone could perhaps be best for both players.
Players like Josh Lowe and Jonathan Aranda are also lefties with notable issues when southpaws are on the mound. That could perhaps lead to Rosario getting some time as the designated hitter or even taking a corner outfield role on occasion. He has just 171 1/3 innings of outfield experience at the big league level but the Rays could perhaps try to rotate him through if they think it will help their versatility.
Despite his rough season and generally poor defensive track record, Rosario still generated plenty of interest this winter. The free agent market for middle infielders was on the weak side but plenty of teams were in need of help there. The Angels, Marlins, Red Sox and Blue Jays were connected to him at various points in the offseason. The Jays pivoted to Justin Turner and Isiah Kiner-Falefa as their infield additions while the Red Sox filled their second base position by trading for Vaughn Grissom. The Marlins are still looking to upgrade at shortstop but reportedly have made an offer to Tim Anderson. The Angels are known to have interest in bringing back Gio Urshela as a multi-positional infield upgrade.