Major League Baseball's free-agent pool — which numbers nearly 200 already — figures to grow by perhaps another 100 Wednesday, after the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players passes.
The new group of free agents could include Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario.
Rosario is projected to make more than $10 million next season, a number the Twins don't want to pay in baseball's hard economic times. A major league source confirmed Rosario is on waivers, and any team can claim him until noon Wednesday and pay him next season's salary.
If Rosario clears waivers, the Twins could try to work out a club-friendly deal with a player who led the team in RBI each of the past two seasons.
Without such an agreement, they are likely to nontender Rosario, letting the 29-year-old walk away after six seasons in Minnesota.
Rosario's case isn't unique in MLB. As teams make tough decisions, many familiar names will not be tendered by the 7 p.m. deadline and will become free agents.
According to Commissioner Rob Manfred, MLB teams lost more than $3 billion in revenue in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic limited the season to 60 regular-season games with no fans in attendance. There remains economic uncertainty about 2021 with COVID-19 numbers surging.
That will impact personnel decisions across the leagues this offseason.
"We recognize there are unique circumstances that played out this year and some uncertainty as we progress through this offseason as to what the beginning of 2021 will look like as well," Twins President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey said Sept. 29 after his team was eliminated by Houston in the first round of the playoffs. "We'll factor all that in."
The Twins want to re-sign designated hitter Nelson Cruz, but they were willing to take the money earmarked for him to make a run at free agent Charlie Morton. The veteran pitcher ended up with Atlanta, but it offered a glimpse of their spending approach this offseason.
Who gets tendered, and who doesn't, on Wednesday will be another indicator.
The Twins have seven players eligible for arbitration: pitchers Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey, Taylor Rogers and Matt Wisler; catcher Mitch Garver; and outfielders Byron Buxton and Rosario.
As the Twins decide about tenders, various projections have Rosario earning $10 million to $11 million through arbitration.
The free-swinging Rosario, a fourth-round draft pick from Puerto Rico in 2010, has shown great hand-eye coordination and can hit a ball anywhere it is pitched. He has a strong arm (leading American League outfielders in assists as a rookie in 2015) and decent speed in left. He homered in the first plate appearance of his career and his first playoff at-bat, and led the AL in triples as a rookie. In 2019, he hit .277 with 32 home runs and 109 RBI.
But despite his arm and range, he has made poor decisions in the field. His plate discipline is uneven. Rosario tried to put together more patient at-bats in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He batted only .257 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI in 57 games, but his 19 walks were three shy of his 137-game total in 2019.
With top prospect Alex Kirilloff about ready — he made his Twins debut during the playoffs — and rookie Brent Rooker also impressive in seven games before breaking his arm, the Twins have outfield depth, and they might be tempted to let Rosario depart while allocating their resources elsewhere.
That might be more important now that free-agent reliever Trevor May is leaving, having agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Mets. May posted a 3.86 ERA in 2020 while striking out a whopping 14.7 batters per nine innings.
For a team that had plenty of savvy in their bullpen last season with the likes of Tyler Clippard, Cody Stashak, Sergio Romo and others, the Twins need to add power arms, not lose them.
Replacing Rosario with Kirilloff in left field might enable the Twins to find a suitable power reliever.
Berrios, Buxton and Rogers are projected to earn between $4-6 million each in arbitration, and they are all expected to be tendered contracts Wednesday. There's always a chance Rosario and the Twins can agree to something that makes sense for both sides, but he carries the biggest arbitration price tag on a team headed for a tight payroll.
That might lead the Twins to part ways with a core member of the team.