Outfielder Eddie Rosario set to join Nationals on a minor league deal

Outfielder Eddie Rosario set to join Nationals on a minor league deal

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Washington Nationals on Wednesday agreed to a minor league deal with outfielder Eddie Rosario, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The contract is pending a physical.

Rosario, 32, is a career .268 hitter who spent the first six years of his career with the Minnesota Twins before joining the Cleveland Guardians in 2021. He was traded to the Braves in 2021 and helped lift Atlanta to a World Series title, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors along the way. He spent the past two seasons with the Braves, who declined a $9 million option for Rosario this offseason. Rosario hit .255 with 21 home runs for the Atlanta Braves last season and had a 100 OPS+.

The Nationals, who hoped to add more power ahead of the 2024 season, signed Nick Senzel and Joey Gallo this winter, but still lacked a pop as they entered spring training. Washington brought in veteran Jesse Winker on a minor league deal and is now adding Rosario. El Extra Base was first to report news of the Rosario deal.

Rosario’s expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and expected weighted on-base average last season were all above league average, which bodes well for him heading into 2024. But he did have an alarming 43.5 percent chase rate in 2023, which was the highest since his 2015 rookie season. He swung at 57.4 percent of pitches last season, higher than the league average, but struggled to make contact.

Rosario joins a crowded outfield competition with Washington. Lane Thomas is solidified as the team’s everyday right fielder, and Victor Robles is expected to be in center field, though certainly he’s not guaranteed the job. Left field remains a bit of a question mark for Washington, which opens its season March 28 against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Gallo is a two-time Gold Glove winner who was expected to compete in left field, but during an appearance on 106.7 the Fan, General Manager Mike Rizzo said he would expect Gallo to see more time at first base than in the outfield early on. Gallo is dealing with a quad injury, and Manager Dave Martinez said he hopes Gallo will be back in the lineup Thursday.

There’s also Stone Garrett, who is working his way back from a broken fibula and ankle. He improved last season and performed well, but he has yet to play in a spring training game and only recently starting to play in simulated games. There is no guarantee he will be ready for Opening Day.

That leaves Travis Blankenhorn, Alex Call, Jacob Young and Winker as options for the Nationals, who also have several young prospects, including the 6-foot-6 James Wood, waiting in the wings. Wood has been arguably the most impressive hitter for the Nationals this spring training. He leads the team in homers and has generated buzz at camp in Florida. Adding another experienced outfielder to the mix, though, makes his path to the majors more difficult.

When Wood is called up, Washington wants him to play and Rosario could take away Wood’s chance for consistent at-bats. Rosario and Winker, a former all-star, have similar profiles offensively. It seems likely at least one will make the team out of camp.

MLB does incentivize putting young, hyped prospects on Opening Day rosters if they are ready. If an eligible player is called up within the first two weeks of the season, accrues a full year of service time and either wins Rookie of the Year or finishes in the top three of MVP voting before arbitration, that player’s team earns a draft pick. Players are only eligible if they appear on multiple preseason prospect rankings lists.

But there is the reason the incentive was created — teams manipulated service time by calling up players after they were no longer eligible to reach a full year, giving them another year of control before free agency. The Nationals could certainly use that to their advantage with Wood.

There’s a long way to go in spring training and no guarantee Wood will keep up his hot start. But Rosario provides Washington with more flexibility and depth moving forward.

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