Nats add outfielder Rosario on minor league deal

JUPITER, Fla. – The Nationals made a new addition to camp this morning by signing veteran outfielder Eddie Rosario to a minor league contract, a source familiar with the deal confirmed.

Rosario, who still needs to pass a physical before his signing is official, is guaranteed $2 million if he makes the major league club and could earn up to $4 million with incentives.

The 31-year-old has primarily played left field, but has experience in all three outfield spots over the course of his nine-year career. He owns a career slash line of .268/.305/.460 with a .766 OPS with the Twins, Cleveland and the Braves.

A fourth-round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico by the Twins in 2010, Rosario signed a one-year, $8 million contract with Cleveland in February 2021 and was traded almost six months later at the deadline to Atlanta for Pablo Sandoval. Three months later, he helped lead the Braves to their first World Series title since 1995.

Rosario was named the National League Championship Series MVP during that October run after going 14-for-25 (.560) with a double, triple, three home runs and nine RBIs, including a walk-off single in Game 2, two four-hit games and a three-run home run in Game 6 to clinch the NL pennant.

In 142 games with the Braves last year, he slashed .255/.305/.450 with a .755 OPS, 21 home runs and 74 RBIs. He also had three Defensive Runs Saved in 130 games in left field, which would have been third-best among all Nats outfielders behind Alex Call (seven DRS in 124 games) and Stone Garrett (five DRS in 89 games).

Even so, the Braves declined his $9 million option at the end of the season.

This addition is the latest sign that Stone Garrett may not be ready for Opening Day, as the Nats had previously hoped. The 28-year-old outfielder, still recovering from the broken leg and injured ankle he suffered in August, is still having trouble running the bases and has yet to take extended reps in the outfield. However, manager Davey Martinez did say Garrett is improving by using his legs more when taking batting practice.

Before Rosario joins the group, the Nationals have 11 outfielders in major league spring training. Lane Thomas is solidified in right field, while Victor Robles and Jacob Young are competing for the center field spot.

Joey Gallo, signed in the offseason to one-year, $5 million deal to primarily be the left fielder, is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner as a right fielder. But the veteran has been slowed by a tight quad muscle and has exclusively taken reps at first base so far in camp. Martinez hopes Gallo will be the designated hitter in tomorrow night’s game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.

The other outfielders competing for roster spots include Alex Call and non-roster invitees Travis Blankenhorn and Jesse Winker. Top prospects James Wood, Dylan Crews and Robert Hassell III are also in camp, and while they have impressed so far, now seem unlikely to crack the Opening Day roster.

With Rosario seemingly coming in to compete for the left field spot, the prospects’ best chance at making the team may be beating out either Robles or Young in center.

El Extrabase was first to report the deal between Rosario and the Nationals. The New York Post had more with the financials.

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