For Rosario, returning to Braves a no-brainer

March 18th, 2022

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Eddie Rosario gave a simple answer when asked why he had put the Braves at the top of his free-agency wish list.

“Because we won the World Series,” Rosario said. “Every player wants to be on a winning team. The way the organization and the fans treated me was amazing. Why not be here? Where else would I want to be?”

What became a great relationship last season was extended earlier this week, when Rosario rejoined the defending World Series-champion Braves on a two-year, $18 million contract. The 30-year-old outfielder has endeared himself to Braves fans, who will always have fond memories of him being named the 2021 National League Championship Series MVP.

“That’s what the postseason is all about,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s really cool when a guy gets locked in like [Rosario] was. It was fun to experience with him as he got all the big hits all of the time.”

Like the Braves, Rosario entered the second half of the 2021 season filled with frustration. He hit .254 with seven homers and a .685 OPS in the 78 games he played for Cleveland after signing a one-year, $8 million deal. Adding to his struggles was the fact that he sustained an abdominal strain on July 5 and would be sidelined until late August.

Still, the Braves were willing to take a chance on the potential of Rosario, who had hit 32 homers for the Twins in 2019. The benefits of that decision now may carry through the next two seasons.

Rosario may not be a plus defender, but he’s serviceable in left field and has the capability to play each of the three outfield spots if necessary. He will likely serve as the primary left fielder, but he could see time in right while Ronald Acuña Jr. spends the first few weeks of the season recovering from a torn right ACL.

As he did during the final weeks of 2021, Rosario could also make up for Acuña’s absence by filling the leadoff spot.

Once Acuña returns, the Braves could put Acuña in right field, Adam Duvall in center and Rosario in left. That would set the stage for Marcell Ozuna to serve as the primary designated hitter.

“[Rosario] is pretty versatile [in regard to] where you can put him in the lineup,” Snitker said. “A guy like him can really balance the lineup out and make it hard on the opposition.”

When the Braves acquired Rosario last July, it was unclear how he might fit, as the team had also acquired outfielders Duvall, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson. But once Rosario started playing in late August, it was tough to keep him out of the lineup.

Rosario hit for the cycle against the Giants on Sept. 19 and produced a .903 OPS over 33 regular-season games for the Braves. But his greatest achievements came during a magical postseason, during which he hit .383 with three homers and a 1.073 OPS in 16 playoff games. His 23 hits were the second most produced by a Braves player in a single postseason, trailing only Marquis Grissom’s 25 in 1995.

Although Rosario was valuable to the Braves in each of the three postseason rounds, his top production came in the NLCS after Soler tested positive for COVID-19 -- he went 14-for-25 with three homers, a double and a triple in six games against the Dodgers.

“What I did the whole postseason was like a dream,” Rosario said. “I [thought] about it all offseason.”