Kyle Schwarber is now a free agent. MLB’s non-tender day had one big surprise. The Chicago Cubs cut the big outfielder in a move that surprised many.
Schwarber played a pivotal part in the Cubs curse-breaking 2016 season, and he was one of the homegrown core that the Cubs had built around. The Cubs drafted Schwarber in the first round in 2014. He is only 27 years old. It is a seismic move from the Cubs front office to release him, and it may signal the start of a rebuild in the North Side. Theo Epstein has now gone, there was chatter that Kris Bryant might get traded. Now, one of the clubhouse leaders is gone.
Yes, Schwarber had a down year in 2020. His OPS dropped from .871 to .701. That is a massive drop for a man who is a premier slugger. But, the real stat that will hurt Schwarber is his WAR. His dropped to -0.2. That metric shows that he did not add to the team when he took the field. However, at 27 years old, Schwarber still has his best years ahead of him. His career slugging percentage is an excellent .480. He is a powerful outfielder with a rocket arm. What he may lack in speed he makes up for with brilliant anticipation. He will be an attractive signing for a slew of teams looking to add power and leadership to their team.
The Tigers would be smart to add an experienced big bat to the clubhouse. Currently, FanGraphs is projecting Christin Stewart to start at left field for Detroit. Schwarber would be a considerable upgrade on him. Stewart’s career slash line reads .225/.300/.376, that is not good. Precisely that slugging percentage. Stewart has power, yet he has been unable to bring that power to Comerica Park. Schwarber strikes out a lot, but he is also a big power hitter.
Being a lefty also suits the dimensions of the Tiger ballpark. It is a short pull hit into the right field while it is also very forgiving for left-handers in the opposite area. Comerica has a high sided grandstand on that side; it does not require lefty hitters to push the ball. A straight line drive can be good enough in that ballpark. Schwarber would have slugging opportunities on both sides of the field.
Defensively Schwarber is also protected on the left-field side. The bullpen wall is further in than most stadiums. The ground he’d have to cover would be less than somewhere like San Francisco.
Due to the high wall on the left-field side and the foul line, Schwarber would not need to be concerned about being dragged left to right across the outfield. He can stay in one zone and look out for shallow bloop hits or the long ball. For a rebuilding team, you may be wondering why they should sign a free agent who could be expensive. However, it is precisely that reason they should sign him. He brings experience and leadership to a young clubhouse, while he also brings much-needed power to a weak batting lineup.
New York Yankees
Schwarber held tentative talks with the Yankees a few years ago. With Brett Gardner now 37 and Mike Tauchman not being very good, the Yanks could upgrade their outfield group. The speedy Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks and All-Star Aaron Judge are the stars of this group. Nonetheless, Schwarber would be an excellent addition to the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees have had problems with injuries in the last few years. Giancarlo Stanton, Hicks and Judge have all spent time on the IL. Again, with Schwarber being a left-handed hitter, his eyes will light up at seeing the right-field wall. It is a small hit for these powerful left-handed hitters.
They could also use him with a lot of flexibility in the outfield or as a DH. Due to Frazier’s speed, you could play him at the centre field; then you could slide Schwarber out to the left. Also, you could rotate him as part of the DH plan. Stanton, Judge, Hicks and Schwarber could all spend time as the designated hitter, depending on what type of starter is on the mound. Aaron Boone could also use this as a way to keep his star sluggers healthy, having another player to share out the outfield duty could help keep Judge and Stanton healthy. That is vital if the Yankees want championship number 28.
St Louis Cardinals
Now, this would be controversial, but could Schwarber join Dexter Fowler in The Gateway City? It would be brave, but it is worth considering. The Cardinals finished in the bottom ten in left field WAR in 2020. Yes, Tyler O’Neill is the future. The speedy outfielder is a superb defender. He covers so much ground in a large area for the Cards. But, with the universal DH still on the table for 2021, Schwarber would be a wise pickup. It is another field that suits his skills. The right-field porch is a line drive hit for someone of his power. At the same time, he can fly the ball into Big Mac Land. The Cardinals have a fantastic all-around lineup. However, they could do with an extra boost of power.
In a division that looks incredibly wide open, taking a player from a rival could be huge. Schwarber also brings tactical adaptability; you can pinch-hit him, you can use O’Neill as a pinch-runner in crucial moments. There is another layer of flexibility which Schwarber adds, and that is crucial in modern-day baseball.