As the calendar speeds toward the trade deadline, a few things are bouncing around the Guardians echo chamber with more urgency than others. One of those things is the glut of middle infield prospects Cleveland has on the 40-man roster, and another is that Amed Rosario is one of the likeliest Guardians to be traded. These are two related notions, clearly, as Rosario has started 88 of the team’s 95 games at shortstop; thus, in order to make room for these prospects, Amed has to go.
This is a syllogism.
Just because Rosario is currently occupying the role of starting shortstop does not mean that the team is eager to move on from him to make room for prospects, no matter how promising. In fact, there are a number of reasons to want Amed to stick around.
First, despite the fact every mistake Rosario makes is blown up on Twitter and held up as a reason to trade him, he’s having a very good season. In 89 games played, he has accumulated 2.1 fWAR with a wRC+ of 110 and wOBA of .323, which ranks 11th, 11th, and 13th among all qualified shortstops. He also fits the Guardians offense, with a patient approach and a good number of balls in play. He has a strikeout rate of just 14.6% and a contact rate of 82.5% (both 7th among shortstops), which has helped him create positive outcomes despite not having superlative power, turning a .337 BABIP into a slash of .294/.331/.410.
Second, Rosario is having a better season than his 2021 (2.4 fWAR over 141 games). With 2.1 fWAR he’s been better than 13 other shortstops so far this year, including those for contenders like the Blue Jays, Twins, and Yankees. Even if he got injured and did not play another inning this season, his 2.1 fWAR would be pretty good. Cincinnati has only had a shortstop exceed 2 fWAR twice since 2010; it has only happened three times in that time frame for Detroit, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh; and four times for Minnesota, New York Mets, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Cleveland has been fortunate to have remarkable shortstop play over the last decade or so, and Rosario will likely never measure up to what Francisco Lindor did, but that doesn’t mean his production is easily replaced.
Third, there’s no guarantee any of the potential internal replacements will do as well as Rosario. Gabriel Arias is the prospect closest to having an impact, but so far he has not acquitted himself well. His sample size is smaller than Steven Kwan’s swing-and-miss rate, but his hit tool has never been highly rated and it seems to be playing as expected at the big league level. Tyler Freeman rates a little higher and might be ready, but he still has just 65 games of Triple-A experience and would likely have a lot of adjustment to make at the big league level as well. Of course, without Rosario, the Guardians could shift Andrés Giménez to his best position and let one of the other prospects play in the less-demanding second base role. But Giménez earned an All-Star nod as a second baseman fewer than 200 games into his MLB career, why move him now and mess with a good thing?
Fourth, things are going pretty well right now overall, and disrupting that seems short-sighted. It’s common sense that players like to win and that they are happier when they’re winning, so why deal away a piece that is helping you win right now? As of this writing, the Guardians have 28.2% odds of making the playoffs, and ditching Rosario would definitely hurt that. Beyond just winning, trading Rosario could hurt clubhouse chemistry. He’s a guy who is widely liked and respected in the clubhouse as a leader and some insiders are throwing cold water on the idea of him being traded, at least for now.
Fifth, and finally, what is the market for Rosario? We’ve established that he’s having a good year, a better year than some contenders’ shortstops, but among them perhaps only the Yankees would be interested in acquiring Rosario — and it’s hard to imagine them putting together a return that would be acceptable for the Guardians right now. Most contenders have a good shortstop or could use prospects to acquire a shortstop from another team (as they likely cannot with Cleveland because the team needs to consolidate its existing prospects). So, despite all the reasons above, Rosario may just be stuck in Cleveland.
But is it really a bad thing to play out the season with Rosario at shortstop? With little market for him at the deadline, his value might not be much different in the offseason, and until then he’s pretty darn enjoyable to have around unless you’re looking for reasons to want him gone. For instance, in July the first five batters in the Guardians’ lineup — Kwan, Rosario, José Ramírez, Josh Naylor, and Giménez — all have wRC+ at least 8 points above league average. Rosario is right in the middle of that pack, with 137.
I don’t know about you, but I find that to be quite enjoyable to watch on a nightly basis. And I’m pretty content to enjoy Amed as a Guardian for a while longer.