As every Tribe fan who was not in a coma or lost in the woods knows by now: the Indians traded Francisco Lindor & Carlos Carrasco to the Mets for Amed Rosaio, Andres Gimenez and two other prospects. Several members of this group are not satisfied with the writing on this site on the trade, and long to see more analysis on the actual return Cleveland received in the trade. I think it's fair to want to know more on what we received instead of what we lost. I am no analyst on prospects, and will not pretend otherwise. As such I will not attempt to analyze two of the players we received in the trade: Josh Wolfe and Isaiah Greene; both are quite young, recently drafted, and will likely not impact the Major League club for at least a few years. That being said I suspect it is likely Rosario and Gimenez start at shortstop and second base for Cleveland in 2021, so we should look at some analysis on both prospects.
To be clear: I use the term prospect loosely here: neither player qualifies as an official prospect, and Rosario has actually spent several seasons playing for the Mets.
Amed Rosario, Shortstop
Let's start with the actual results Rosario produced the past several seasons in New York. In parts of four seasons for the Mets Rosaio posted a .268/.302/.403 (OPS+ 91) in 1,564 PAs. Baseball Reference reckons Rosaio is a below average hitter, suggesting he's 15 runs below average with the stick over the course of his young ML career. B-Ref also reckons Rosario is a well below average defender, with him costing the Mets 35 runs over those same four seasons. On the other hand, Amed is an accomplished baserunner who avoids double plays. Again, B-Ref suggests he's 8 runs above average (when avoiding double plays and baserunning is combined).
Fangraphs calculates things differently, but agrees with Baseball Reference on Amed's offensive prowess (or lack thereof thus far) calculating Rosario's wRC+ at 89 over his 1,564 PAs. Again, Fangraphs reckons Rosario is an above average baserunner (although interestingly he's not a plus base stealer which is different). Finally, defensively DRS (which makes up the bulk of how B-Ref calculates the defensive portion of its version of WAR) has Rosario in the red defensively at negative 35 runs, and his UZR is similarly down on Rosario's defense.
Overall, we are left with a mediocre hitter and a poor fielder, with good speed. Since Amed can handle the shortstop position he still brings some value: Fangraphs version of WAR gives him 4.6 WAR and Baseball Reference slots him at 2.3. Rosario is projected to be about an average player in 2021 (average being categorized at 2 WAR), which is certainly valuable. Rosario is arbitration eligible, with three seasons of control, and MLB Trade Rumors projects he'll make between $1.8M and $2.6M depending on the method you choose.
If we consider Rosario's pedigree we see a broader picture of his talent potential. At one time, Rosario was considered either the best, or among the best, prospects in the game. The Mets drafted Rosario in 2012 and handed him what was at that time the largest bonus ever given by the club to a prospect. Rosario debuted at the tender age of 17 in the Mets system and held his own at ever level in the minors despite his youth.
Keith Law ranked Rosario as the top prospect in baseball mid-season in 2017 (right before his debut in New York), Law's blurb on Rosario can be found here(paywall for ESPN). Law's analysis is short, which limits the information we can glean from his ranking but Law wrote the following that summer:
Rosario impressed the Mets enough in March that they promoted him to Triple-A Las Vegas despite his youth and the fact he only played 56 games in Double-A in his career. Vegas is a great hitters environment, and I expect him to put up big numbers there that wont tell us much either way about his development, but the promotion also tells us the Mets want to see Rosario in the Majors sooner rather than later.
Law wrote more about Rosario that winter, where he ranked Amed the 3rd best prospect in baseball, and expanded on his thinking. The full article can be found here (again, paywall), but the relevant paragraph is below:
Rosario is big for a shortstop, but in a league of his own athletically. He's almost a lock to stay at the position, and he's gifted with quick actions, a plus arm, and the ability to throw accurately while in motion. He also saw his walk rate soar with just a modest rise in his strikeout rate, which is still quite low for a hitter projected to come into power. He has MVP potential as a true shortstop who will be above average defensively who projects to hit .300 with some walks and power.
If Keith Law is not your favorite prospect evaluator (and I know Law will have his detractors), we can consider other sources to better evaluate him.
Fangraphs ranked Rosario as the Mets top prospect in 2017, and gave him a 65 rating, which suggests Rosario was seen as a near lock to be a regular at the Major League level. The whole article is worth a read, and can be found (for free) here. A few tidbits I pulled out of their analysis:
Rosario is so exceptionally athletic he is likely to remain a plus defender at short even if he adds 10-15 pounds into his 20s.
Rosario's newfound offensive prowess is a substantial layer of icing piled onto a favorable and cakey defensive profile. He did not look out of place taking batting practice at the Future's Game among some of the best power hitting prospects in baseball and planted a few shots of his own at Petco Park.
Overall, it's fair to say Fangraphs thought quite highly of Rosario coming into the 2017 season, which lines up with Law's analysis.
To round out the analysis, Amazin' Avenue also ranked Rosario as the Mets' top prospect in 2017 and while the full article is worth a read, I will use the first quote from Greg in the article to finalize the prospect analysis from our sister blog.
Rosario is the total package. He can hit, and he can run, and he can field. His bat is one of the quickest I've seen, allowing him to hit balls in any quadrant in the zone. His patience has improved and he now draws his fair share of walks. With the way he swings the bat, I can see him developing into above average power if he adds some muscle into his frame. If he does add some muscle, I am not concerned with him moving off of short because he is a plus runner and an excellent defender. He has the potential to be an all-star caliber major leaguer.
Overall, Rosario's pedigree is beyond reproach: he was clearly seen as a superior prospect, and likely to do a lot of damage at the Major League level. Needless to say, Rosario did not (thus far) live up to the hype. Rosario did not develop power, with his SLG hovering barely over .400 for his career. His career high of 15 home runs is solid, but not spectacular. Despite showing greater patience in the minors: this did not translate to the Major League level, and his OBP is not stellar. Similarly his defense has not translated to the Majors either. Only his baserunning has translated thus far.
That being said, Rosario's story is hardly completely written. Before the 2020 season Fangraphs wrote a piece discussing his marginal improvements from 2017-18 to 2019 (and Rosario did improve: his offense went from below average to slightly above average, or OPS+ 85 to 101), and his defense went from putrid to merely below average. I will not quote extensively from the piece (worth a full read here), but merely quote its conclusion:
Amed Rosario projects to be an above average regular in 2020 with the potential for more. That probably feels like a redemption story for Mets fans, who have been waiting for this breakout since Matt Harvey was a growing concern. But really, it's not. It's simply par for the course for a talented young player who was so good in the minor leagues that he burst onto the scene at a precocious age.
It is fair to say Rosario's promise did not translate in 2020 where his numbers better reflect his results from the first two seasons than 2019. Then again, Amed is young, and he could bounce back (again) to become at least an average regular, perhaps more. If you want hope on what he can become look no further than Jose Ramirez who stunk in his age 20, 21 and 22 seasons before finally succeeding at age 23 (2016 where he posted a well above average season) and then became an MVP candidate at 25. Now, I am not saying Rosario will break out this year, simply that it's hardly unprecedented either.
Andres Gimenez, Shortstop
Gimenez debuted in 2020, and started his career closer to what people hoped for Rosario, and in fact supplanted him by the end of 2020. For what it's worth here is Gimenez's line in 2020 (over a measly 132 PAs): .263/.333/.398 (OPS+ 102). Overall, Baseball-Reference reckons Gimenez was a neutral hitter (neither costing the Mets or helping the Mets with the stick) with above average baserunning at defense while playing either short or second base. Fangraphs basically agrees with Baseball-Reference, giving him a mildly higher wRC+ than OPS+ (105 v 102), while also ranking Andres as an above average baserunner and defender.
Gimenez is projected to be slightly worse than Rosario next season, but since he's making the minimum: an average player is quite valuable for any club in baseball.
Keith Law did not rank Andres Gimenez as a top 100 prospect, but did rank Gimenez among the top Mets prospects in 2020 (and ranked the system 16th in baseball), ranking 6th. Law does not say much about him, but here's the blurb for what it's worth (the full article can be found here behind a paywall):
Gimenez can play shortstop, but as no other above average tools. He has some feel to hit (but no power) and has strong instincts in the field and on the bases to boost him above his pure physical abilities.
Overall, I cannot draw much of a conclusion on this, except to say Law does not think particularly highly on Andres.
Fangraphs ranked Gimenez as the Mets' second best prospect in 2020, and ranked him as a FTV 50 prospect, and given his debut in 2020 this ranking made sense. I think it's worth quoting Fangraphs in full on Gimenez, since it's neither particularly long but it's relatively enlightening:
Defensively at either short or second, Gimenez's wide array of skills, especially his range, is going to make him a strong middle infielder.
On offense, even though Gimenez spent 2019 all the way up at Double-A, things are less clear. He looked physically over matched against Double-A pitching, which is fine because he's only 20, but he was also chasing a lot and seemed doomed if he fell behind in counts because of it. The all-fields spray (lots of oppo field doubles) that comes when Gimenez targets more hittable pitches is promising. We're not optimistic that any kind of impact power will ever come...but the hit tool and doubles would be plenty to profile everyday on the middle infield if Gimenez learns to be more selective.
We get the feeling Fangraphs projects Gimenez as a steady potential regular, with some development left to go.
Finally, Amazin' Avenue also profiled Gimenez, also ranking him 2nd in the Mets' system. The full article can be found here. I will not quote much from the article, as it matches roughly what Fangraphs said about him, just in significantly more detail.
Overall, Gimenez carries far less prospect pedigree, but he has not (yet) struggled significantly in the Majors.
To be quite clear: I do not know much about prospects, which is why I am leaning so hard on several different sources to flesh out the rough idea on how both Rosario and Gimenez were thought of by national, and local, sources in their careers. It is clear Rosario was a former top prospect who's talent level perhaps matched that of Francisco Lindor prior to his own debut in 2015. Chris Gimenez lacks this pedigree, but succeeded relatively in his first taste at the big league level. Both players are under control for several seasons and neither will cost the team much financially in the short run, which should (hopefully) "provide the financial flexibility for [the Indians] to look at other opportunities to improve the team."
I tend to agree with Keith Law's analysis on the trade, found at The Athletic (which is unfortunately behind a paywall). To quote Keith:
Cleveland gets a return that will likely be pilloried by fans but the truth is this is a reasonable return for the situation. Lindor has one year left until free agency and expressed no interest in remaining in Cleveland...they did get four players in return, a couple of whom are talented enough they might make fans feel better about this trade in time.
To borrow Law's title: Antonetti did not fail on this trade. This trade will likely make the team better in the medium term, even as it makes the team worse in 2021. If we're grading this trade like I graded many of the deals Mark Shapiro made in his tenure as Cleveland's GM: the Front Office will look good, and many people will feel vindicated from a pure WAR for WAR (over the length of Lindor's single year remaining, and the lengthy period of time Cleveland will control Rosario & Gimenez).
For me personally, I do not support this trade in spite of the inarguable simple calculus: the Indians got more for Lindor and Carrasco trading them now than letting Lindor walk, or trading Carrasco at some later date. I do not question, nor do I disagree, that trading them will likely make the team better in 2023 and beyond. But, Lindor is a generational talent, a player whom (I firmly believe) will likely enter the Hall of Fame some day in the future. Lindor is clearly the best shortstop Cleveland's developed since Lou Boudreau (who is of course himself a Hall of Famer). Lindor's 2018 is probably the best season by an Indians shortstop since Boudreau's 1948 MVP season. Mandy Bell ranked Lindor the 3rd best shortstop in team history this January (I think she gives Vizquel too much credit, but Vizquel did spend far more time with the club). All this is to simply say: talents like Frankie Lindor do not come along often, in fact: they probably come along (for any individual team) once a generation, if not less frequently. The same can easily be said of Jose Ramirez. You should not depart from these kinds of players without really good reason. There is little guarantee the team will ever recreate as strong a base core as Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Shane Bieber in the near future.
Carlos Carrasco represents a similar, but perhaps more emotional, sentiment to the club. I do not believe Carrasco is as good as Lindor, he's not particularly close. And when we consider who Cleveland could replace Cookie with on the roster: Carlos was clearly more replaceable (in pure baseball terms) than Lindor. If you strip emotion from the trade (a puzzling sentiment considering we're rooting for a baseball team): you could justify trading Cookie more than trading Frankie. Then again, it's not that simple: Carrasco chose to remain in Cleveland, not just once (like Jose Ramirez, Brantley, Carlos Santana and Kluber), but twice. Cookie chose to sign a team friendly extension instead of give the Indians an excuse to trade him last offseason. This does not even mention the emotional pull of pulling for Cookie when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. I will leave my thoughts on Cookie with his heartfelt goodbye (one I do not believe Lindor has replicated).
The question I ask is when should a team prioritize its wins: in the present or in the future? If you believe the Indians should prioritize wins in the future: then this trade was a success. If you think pairing Lindor with Ramirez, Bieber, and others is an unusually strong opportunity to create a winning team: you will likely think this trade was a mistake. Especially since this team is not operating with a bloated roster. Without Lindor & Carrasco the Indians are projected to field MLB's cheapest roster at $40M, and the team could still trade off more salary. The Indians are currently allocating more money to the catcher position than any other on the roster; I would not be surprised if the Indians trade one of Roberto Perez of Austin Hedges. Which leads me to believe, given the Tribe ran a payroll as high as $135M in 2018. I do not believe the Indians had to trade Lindor for any financial reason: this was a choice, and ownership and the front office chose to prioritize the future over the present. It's not a decision I would agree with, nor one I would have made. But that is purely a matter of perspective, and if you believe the grass is greener in 2023 and beyond: I would imagine you're quite happy (and if you hold this perspective I don't blame you for feeling that way).