Guardians, Amed Rosario Have Discussed Contract Extension


Amed Rosario is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2023 season, but the Guardians have some interest in retaining his services over a longer term, as Rosario told The Athletic’s Zack Meisel (Twitter link) and other reporters that the club has touched base with his agents at Octagon about a possible contract extension.  Rosario isn’t considering Opening Day as a deadline for talks, but he isn’t sure if a deal will be reached.

While the Guardians have commonly pursued and reached extensions over the years, the team has generally pursued multi-year deals with younger players who are either early in their arbitration eligibility or are still in the pre-arb phase of their careers.  Recent examples include the extensions Cleveland reached with Emmanuel Clase and Myles Straw just under a year ago, as both deals saw the Guards gain cost-certainty over the players’ arbitration years and also gain control over free agent years, whether via guaranteed years or via club options.  Of course, the Guardians also signed the biggest contract in team history with their extension with Jose Ramirez last spring, but that deal is something of an outlier considering both Ramirez’s superstar status, his specific desire to remain in Cleveland, and his willingness to take a below-market price.

In short, it would represent a departure from Cleveland’s usual tactics if they locked up a player like Rosario, who is a little older (though he’ll only be 28 on Opening Day 2024) than their normal extension targets, and is also on the verge of free agency.  Rosario and his camp are surely also weighing the Guardians’ offers against the wider market as a whole, since if Rosario can even just replicate his 2022 numbers, he’ll be one of the better options available in a free agent class that isn’t terribly deep in position players.

Once one of baseball’s top prospects during his days in the Mets farm system, Rosario hasn’t yet risen to those lofty expectations, yet he has become a solid everyday player over his two seasons in Cleveland.  Rosario’s inconsistency in New York led the Mets to move him as part of the blockbuster trade that brought Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to Queens, while also giving Cleveland some major payroll savings and two new middle-infield building blocks in Rosario and Andres Gimenez.

It is a deal that has worked out very nicely for the Guardians, considering how Gimenez broke out with one of the best all-around seasons of any player in 2022.  Rosario’s contributions have also been quite respectable, as he has produced 2.4 fWAR in each of his two seasons in Cleveland, hitting .282/.316/.406 over 1258 plate appearances for a 101 wRC+.  His glovework at shortstop is more of a mixed bag depending on your defensive metric of choice, but at least in the view of Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150, his fielding was strongly above-average in 2022.  Rosario also has some experience as a left fielder and center fielder, though his defense has been mediocre over his small sample size of 171 1/3 innings on the grass.

Given the Guardians’ penchant for trading players as they become too expensive, Rosario has been the subject of trade rumors almost since the moment he joined the organization, as there was even speculation Cleveland might flip him soon after the Mets deal.  However, even with Rosario’s rising price tag and the number of promising young middle infield prospects in the Guards farm system, the front office has held off on a trade, and now might revert course entirely by extending Rosario beyond 2023.  A midseason trade might still be possible if the Guardians were to fall out of the postseason race, or if the team becomes confident enough in its young depth options that it moves Rosario while also acting as deadline buyers in pursuit of another deep playoff run.

The ripple effects of a Rosario extension could include an increased willingness by the Guardians to move one or two of those prospects to address other needs, if the club is indeed eyeing Rosario and Gimenez as the long-term answer up the middle.  Gimenez is under team control through the 2026 season and might be an extension candidate himself, so it doesn’t seem likely that the Guards would pivot to exploring a Gimenez trade if they locked up Rosario.

In terms of available payroll space, the Guardians don’t have much in the way of future commitments, but the team’s traditionally limited spending is itself an obstacle.  Prior to Ramirez’s extension, Cleveland had never spent more than $60MM (Edwin Encarnacion) on a player, and it would seem like the team would have to spend well in excess of that number to cover multiple free agent years of a shortstop entering his age-28 season.  Rosario told Meisel and company that he likes playing for the Guardians, though it isn’t known if he would be open to taking anything close to the relative hometown discount that Ramirez gave the team in his extension.

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