All eyes on Rosario's tweet, but no extension in place

Guardians shortstop said it was weird timing as both sides continue discussions

March 26th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Eight sets of eyeball emojis sent Guardians fans into a spiral on Saturday.

Cleveland shortstop sent out the cryptic tweet with no other explanation, other than the mysterious eyes, allowing anyone to infer whatever they’d please. Usually, this wouldn’t cause too much chaos, but at this time of the year, fans are waiting to hear if their favorite team will announce any contract extensions.

This immediately raised questions on whether Rosario and the Guardians’ front office were close to agreeing to some sort of deal. But on Sunday, Rosario said that was not the case.

“No, [the tweets] are separate things,” Rosario said through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “It’s just weird timing because I tweeted that, it was just randomly. At the moment, I wasn’t aware that anything was going on.”

Maybe the Guardians and Rosario aren’t close to nailing down terms of a contract extension, but he explained that his agent and the front office have been having discussions regarding the topic.

“There’s some activity, but that’s only happening between the front office and my agent,” Rosario said. “That’s something out of my control at this time.”  

The Guardians have always tried to have these types of talks done by Opening Day, so that players don’t have it looming over them when they’re trying to focus on on-field production. But if it would take longer than Thursday to get something done, that wouldn’t prevent Rosario from making an agreement.

“I don’t put a hard deadline on things,” Rosario said. “I’m a mature guy. I know how things are and obviously cannot say if it’s not by that day then it’s not done. But they have to talk. They’re the ones talking. I’m gonna keep focusing on doing my job and they’re gonna keep talking whenever that happens.”

Rosario is set to hit free agency after the 2023 season. He’s currently signed to a one-year, $7.8 million deal after avoiding arbitration this past offseason. He’s been consistent in the two seasons he’s been in Cleveland, hitting .282 with a .731 OPS, 25 doubles, six triples, 11 homers and 13 stolen bases in 141 games in 2021.

In ’22, he hit .283 with a .715 OPS, 26 doubles, an MLB-best nine triples, 11 homers and 18 stolen bases. He’s thoroughly enjoyed playing alongside José Ramírez and seems to have at least some desire to remain in Northeast Ohio.

“I think the relationship I have with the community in Cleveland, the city, my teammates and the organization, it’s a place that I really enjoy,” Rosario said. “So, I feel like anybody who’s able to play here will see that this is a good place to stay and play long term.”

The question boils down to whether extending Rosario makes sense for the club. He’s been a reliable bat near the top of the order, he’s been a decent defender at shortstop and it’s clear how much the All-Star third baseman would like to keep his best friend on the squad.

But Cleveland has an overloaded farm system, bursting with middle infield talent. If Rosario stays with the Guardians and Andrés Giménez has until ’27 before he reaches free agency, how will the organization find homes for its young talent?

Brayan Rocchio (No. 6), Jose Tena (No. 24), Juan Brito (No. 18) and Angel Martinez (No. 10) all rank in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Prospects list for the Guardians and are all on the 40-man roster. Gabriel Arias (No. 9) is stuck in a utility role on the big league roster and Tyler Freeman will be in Triple-A, trying to find a way back up to the Majors. 

The Guardians will either need to commit to parting ways with Rosario to open up a path for some of their highly-touted middle infield prospects or they can hang on to Rosario and trade some of these prospects to bring back talent to boost the roster in other areas.

Rosario isn’t the only extension candidate with attention on him. Outfielder Steven Kwan or Rosario’s middle infielder partner Giménez fit the bill. Relievers could be in the mix or maybe a starter.

Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti noted last week that he was optimistic at least one extension would get done and reiterated it on Saturday when he was asked if that was still the case.

“I’m an optimistic person,” Antonetti said with a grin. “I try to be an optimistic pragmatist. I’m pragmatic, but optimistic.”