The Twins also decided to non-tender reliever Matt Wisler prior to MLB's deadline. They reached one-year deals with five of their arbitration-eligible players: right-handed starter Jose Berrios ($500,000 signing bonus and $5.6 million salary), center fielder Byron Buxton ($5,125,000), reliever Tyler Duffey ($2.2 million), catcher Mitch Garver ($1,875,000) and reliever Caleb Thielbar ($650,000).
Rosario cleared waivers this week, another sign of the economic uncertainty around the industry.
"We very much appreciate everything Eddie has done up to this point. He's been a big part of this team over the last number of years. So those are always difficult decisions. But he was a pro about it," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.
Though Rosario and Wisler were the only players on the 40-man roster not offered new contracts, Falvey said the team remains open to negotiating with them as free agents.
The 29-year-old Rosario made $7.75 million last season, batting .257 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs with a .792 OPS in 57 games. He hit a career-high 32 homers with 109 RBIs in 2019 and was voted the team's most valuable player in 2018, but the club's top prospects are in the outfield. Alex Kirilloff, a 2016 first-round draft pick, is likely ready for an everyday role after landing on the postseason roster. Brent Rooker and Trevor Larnach are close behind.
Rosario, who was eligible for his third and final year of arbitration that likely would have driven his salary over $10 million, became a free agent one season early. With the COVID-19 pandemic putting the squeeze on revenues and payrolls, Rosario, whose career on-base percentage is just .310, was a logical candidate to non-tender.
Wisler was a waiver-claim success story for the Twins, posting a 1.07 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 25⅓ innings after splitting the 2019 season with San Diego and Seattle. He made $725,000 in 2020.
The moves left only one player in the salary arbitration eligibility pool, closer Taylor Rogers, with two more months to reach an agreement before the Twins would be forced to go to a hearing. Rogers took a step back this season, compiling a 4.05 ERA in 21 appearances with nine saves and two blown chances. He made $4.45 million in 2020, after notching 30 saves with 90 strikeouts over 69 innings in 2019.
Berrios, a two-time All-Star, had a 4.00 ERA in 12 starts during the 60-game season to help the Twins win their second straight American League Central title. He made $4,025,000 in 2020.
Buxton battled injuries again but posted a career-best .844 OPS, with 13 homers in 39 games while providing elite defense in center field. He made $3,075,000 in 2020.
Duffey, who turns 30 on Dec. 27, had a career-best 1.88 ERA in 24 innings this year with 13 hits allowed and 31 strikeouts. Over the past two years, the right-hander has been a key late-game cog in Minnesota's bullpen, logging a 2.31 ERA and 113 strikeouts over 81⅔ innings with 57 hits allowed. He made $1.2 million in 2020.
Garver and Thielbar entered their first year of arbitration eligibility. After a breakout 2019 season with 31 homers in 93 games, Garver slumped in 2020 and spent much of the summer on the injured list.
In addition to Rosario and Wisler, the Twins have a long list of notable free agents: designated hitter Nelson Cruz, starting pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill, multipositional player Marwin Gonzalez, relievers Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard, and backup catcher Alex Avila. Relief pitcher Trevor May signed with the New York Mets.