What Eddie Rosario, Carlos Rodón, Kyle Schwarber have in common

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What Rosario, Rodón, Schwarber had in common in 2021 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Some 11 months before Eddie Rosario became the National League Championship Series MVP, before he made Braves history en route to a World Series ring, the outfielder got the news that the Twins weren’t going to tender his contract.

This season highlighted a handful of such comeback stories from the 2020 non-tender deadline. Chicago’s teams know that firsthand, after the White Sox non-tendered Carlos Rodón and the Cubs parted ways with Kyle Schwarber.

Rosario, Rodón and Schwarber were among a record-number of arbitration-eligible players who were not tendered contracts last December. The 59 non-tenders came in the wake of a 60-game season played in the midst of a pandemic.

That harsh uptick came with some surprising moves, like the Braves non-tendering Adam Duvall and the Rockies cutting loose David Dahl.

“Some of the toughest roads that I've been on, and getting like go by teams it, led me to a better place,” Cubs manager David Ross said last December, “… Sometimes that smack in the face is a real game changer for you as a player.”

That seemed to ring true for Schwarber, as Ross predicted. The former Cubs right fielder told NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer this season that being non-tendered was “one of the better things that could happen for me in my career.”

He’s not the only one who could make that claim. Outfielder Tyler Naquin went from hitting .218 with Cleveland in 2020, to posting a .270 batting average this year. Reliever Ryne Stanek went from posting a 7.20 ERA in nine games with the Marlins last year – his season shortened as he battled COVID-19 – to logging a 3.42 ERA with the World Series-bound Astros this season.

Duvall, who spent the first half of the season with the Marlins before the Braves brought him back, led the National League in RBI during the regular season and then hit a grand slam in Game 5 of the World Series. Rosario, who Cleveland signed last winter and then sent to Atlanta at the trade deadline, set a new Braves record by reaching base 31 times in the playoffs this year.

Rodón and Schwarber, however, had two of the best bounce-back stories from last year’s non-tender deadline.

Rodón’s bigger hurtles in 2019 and 2020 were injuries, pitching in just 11 games in two seasons. After non-tendering Rodón last December, the White Sox re-signed him in February. In his second start of 2021, Rodón threw a no-hitter against Cleveland, carrying a perfect game into the ninth inning.

“That guy is one of the best pitchers that I've seen in years, especially left-handed pitchers,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said last month, when his team face the White Sox in the ALDS. “You don't find left-handed pitchers that throw with the velocity that he has, and that's what velocity does. It makes you commit early, makes you swing at bad balls out of the zone because you got to start your swing early.”

Rodón’s jump in innings this year took a physical toll on him by the end of the season. Battling shoulder fatigue, his velocity and recovery time lagged. But he still finished the year with a 2.37 ERA and his first All-Star nod.

Schwarber, too, made his first trip to the All-Star Game this year. He had recently etched his name in MLB history by hitting 15 homers in 17 games, joining Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds as the only players to go on such a stretch.

After Schwarber’s glowing introduction to Nationals fans, however, Washington dealt him to Boston in a trade-deadline selloff. Schwarber continued his power-hitting ways there, too, finishing the season slashing .266/.374/.544, a big jump from the year before (.188/.308/.393). He blasted three home runs in the Red Sox’ playoff run to the ALCS.

Rosario was undoubtedly the bigger postseason hero. But Chicago also had a large stake in non-tender comeback tales.  

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