GOODYEAR, AZ — Jose Ramirez peered across the room at two reporters as he exited the Guardians Club Sunday morning.
“I fell!” Ramirez exclaimed, pointing to the short wardrobe.
Ramirez, who plays his usual role as lead instigator, would certainly celebrate such a deal, given how close they are. Ramirez joked last season that he would gift Amid Rosario $40 million of his own money if it would improve Rosario’s chances of staying in Cleveland long-term.
In fact, Rosario’s representatives and guardians are discussing a possible contract extension. Rosario said President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff have reached out to his agent in recent days, but he doesn’t have a strong inclination about whether the two sides will strike a deal.
“They are the ones who talk,” Rosario said. “I will continue to focus on doing my job and they will keep talking.”
Antonetti said throughout the week that he’s optimistic about the team’s inks Somebody – or multiple players – to an extension in the coming days, although he was quick to downplay the speculation. Andrés Giménez, Steven Kwan and Triston McKenzie, three players who have not yet reached the refereeing stage of their careers, would also make sense as candidates for an extension. It seems that Shin Pepper’s ship has sailed a long time ago.
It’s a bit surprising that the Rangers are the side that initiates the dialogue with the Rosario camp, given the stock of midfield depth at the organization’s disposal. Gabriel Arias, who will likely have a starting opportunity on at least a few big league teams, is limited to the utility role. Tyler Freeman, who has little left to prove in his youth, will start another season at Triple-A Columbus. Brian Rocchio, of the athleteKeith Low, ranked No. 22 in the sport, could be ready for a major league opportunity within the next year. The club is high on Angel Martínez, who could feature in their potential top 100 list in the near future. Juan Brito and Jose Tena climb through the system.
Cleveland is in control of Giménez for four more seasons, and Ramírez is signed through 2028. Therefore, signing Rosario to the extension period will bolster those three players at second base, shortstop and third base for the foreseeable future. And that should lead to the Guardians executing the kind of potential package deal they’ve been so reluctant to pull off for the past two years while they’ve been putting together all this depth.
They can choose to let Rosario play in his final season of dominating the team — he’s earned $7.8 million this season — and then choose whether to make a qualifying offer. If they do, it will cost them somewhere in the vicinity of a $20 million salary for 2024 if he accepts. If he falls elsewhere, they can turn to Arias, Freeman, or Rokyo to replace him in the middle zone.
Rosario could be the star of the free agent class next winter. He said he didn’t like to compare himself to other players, but who could blame him if he was daydreaming about a potential free agent’s pay day? The predictable class of available shortstops pales in comparison to that of last winter, when Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson struck deals worth nearly $1 billion combined. Other imminent free agent shortstops next winter: Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Nick Ahmed, Gio Urshela and Brandon Crawford (who will be 37).
The question, from the Guardians’ perspective, is how confident they are that one of their short prospects will blossom into a productive player like Rosario. They are no closer to resolving this impasse than they were last year. Their status as a competitor requires immediate results, so they stuck with Rosario, which has proven, if nothing else, incredibly reliable.
The full past three seasons of Rosario
2019: slash line .287/.323/.432, 3.0 bWAR, 2.0 fWAR
2021: slash .282/.321/.409, 1.9 bWAR, 2.4 fWAR
2022: slash line .283/.312/.403, 4.2 bWAR, 2.4 fWAR
“That’s the key for me,” he said, “consistent with these numbers.”
Rosario was at one point in the top 10 prospects in the sport. Can Arias, Rocchio or Martinez develop into a better player than him? If the Guardians are seeking to sign Rosario long-term, they don’t seem interested in taking a risk to find out.
Rosario said he does not consider opening day a hard deadline. Guardians usually use the end of spring training to have these discussions. Ramirez and Miles Straw finalized their deals a year early in the days leading up to the season opener.
It’s important to remember that these discussions don’t always — or often — bear fruit. Rosario said he’s comfortable in Cleveland, especially since he’s allowed to play with his close friend, locker mate and partner on the left side of the court. But he said it was “out of my control at this time” and “my priority is to help the team”.
“It’s a place I really enjoy,” said Rosario. “I feel that anyone who is able to play here will see that this is a good place to stay and play for the long term.”
(Amd Rosario top photo: Rick Skutteri/USA Today)