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Braves Potential Free Agent Target: Eddie Rosario

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Does Eddie Rosario add enough offensive value to be a sensible target for Atlanta?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Minnesota Twins Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

Without a doubt, this year’s non-tender deadline certainly added some depth to what was considered a pretty lackluster free agent class. Names such as Kyle Schwarber, David Dahl, Adam Duvall, and others became available as options for teams to consider to make their lineups deeper and stronger. Though some names on this list were more surprising than others, there is no doubt that some talented bats are now available for teams to target.

With the Atlanta Braves already addressing their need for starting pitching depth, adding another bat or two to a lineup that needs another significant source of production in the outfield seems imperative. And while other names would be more valuable options to consider, when it comes to potential cost vs likely production, Eddie Rosario’s recent offensive profile certainly produces some level of intrigue.

However, does his bat add enough value for him to make sense to a National League team. Let’s find out:

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Who Is He?

Eddie Rosario was a fourth round pick of the Minnesota Twins in the 2010 MLB Draft. He made his debut in 2015, and finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year award. Despite a bit of regression in 2016, Rosario has been a fairly consistent source of offense since 2017, including two top 20 MVP finishes over the past two years. However, his best offensive season was in 2017, and since then, he has settled in the .800 OPS, 110-115 OPS+ offensive output range over the past three seasons. As a result, he certainly has established himself as a very good, though not elite, offensive option.

Recent Production

As mentioned above, Eddie Rosario had two top 20 MVP finishes in 2019 and 2020. He was worth 1.2 fWAR in 2019 and 0.9 WAR in 2020. His two offensive outputs were relatively similar as well as he produced .800 OPS, .329 wOBA, and 103 wRC+ measures in 2019 and .792 OPS, .333 wOBA, and 110 wRC+ marks in 2020. He hit 32 home runs in 2019, and hit 13 home runs in 2020, so a 30 home run ceiling is certainly realistic for Rosario over a full season.

Rosario is primarily a left fielder and according to most barometers, such as OAA and UZR, has been average to below average with a decent arm in the field. He may not be in a Gold Glove conversation anytime soon; however, he produces more confidence as an option to play in the outfield on an everyday basis than several other outfield options currently on the market.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why Should the Braves Sign Him?

One reason that the Braves may look to sign Rosario is that he has established a bit of a Markakis-esque offensive theme (though on a significantly higher level) to his career during his prime. He seems to be a dependable 25-30 home run, .800 OPS, high contact driven offensive profile that also offers at least tolerable fielding potential. He is the type of offensive bat that significantly deepens a lineup rather than puts it over the top in comparison to the best offenses in a game. For a team with the payroll that Atlanta has and their need for outfielders and another left-hander hitter, that profile certainly has some intrigue.

As mentioned above, when compared to most power hitters, there is a bit more quantity than quality when it comes to Rosario’s potency as a hitter. A career strikeout rate of 17% for a hitter who has shown 30 home run upside is certainly encouraging, especially considering Rosario has remained below 15% since the start of 2019. An increase in his walk from 3.7% in 2019 to 8.2% in 2020 is also encouraging in terms of continuing to improve the chances of positive outcomes in his plate appearances. Furthermore, Rosario produced a .726 OPS in 2018 and a .766 OPS in 2019 against left-handed pitching. Though that measure regressed to a .536 OPS mark in 2020, Rosario seems to be a bit more reliable as an every day option than other bats that clearly need to be apart of a platoon.

Why Should the Braves Not Sign Him?

Without a doubt, at the right price, any team would be glad to add Rosario to their outfield. However, his offensive profile seems a bit limited for him to be a talent that a contender would enter a bidding war for. His high contact approach certainly allows for him to establish a high-floor as a hitter, and it is backed by a career .201 ISO mark. However, his lack of exit velocity really limits his ability to take the next step as a hitter.

Though Rosario’s Average Exit Velocity mark of 89.2 MPH was the best of his career last year, it still ranked 130th among qualified hitters. Before that, Rosario had routinely landed in the 175-185 range among hitters, never placing higher than the 50th percentile in exit velocity for his career. Though he did produce a career high Hard Hit% of 39% in 2019, that dropped down to 30.3% in 2020.

This further validates the logic that while Rosario may offer a more consistent high-floor profile as an offensive producer than other options the Braves could consider such as Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall, there is less of a chance he will be able to reach the difference making ceilings these players have shown in the recent past over long stretches.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Final prediction and contract expectation

Considering the information above, if feels as if Rosario is more of a highly intriguing complimentary addition than he is a primary target for the Braves. For instance, if the Braves were to resign Ozuna as a primary DH (if the universal DH returns) or were to add a major bat at third base or at another position, then pursuing Rosario would make logical sense as an everyday left fielder.

Otherwise, Rosario really does not offer the offensive upside to make him a priority over some of their other options. While Rosario may actually have a better chance at a multi-year contract than Duvall or Pederson, he has not shown their upside with the bat. For a team such as the Braves who already feature a very good lineup, options with high-risk, high-reward power profiles such as Pederson seem more appealing than high-floor profiles such as Rosario.

While Rosario certainly has a case to be worth a multi-year contract, he also will likely be seeking a good one-year deal with an option for 2022 so he can keep his earnings potential high based off his play going forward. For the Braves, the addition of Rosario would certainly be a positive, as he offers a bat that would compliment Atlanta’s stars. However, it seems as if, on multiple levels, more sensible options could be just as easily had. As a result, while Rosario may make sense for what is Atlanta is seeking, he seems to be a fallback option when compared to other logical offensive targets for the Braves.