Just like that, we know Kyle Schwarber won’t return to the Cubs in 2021.
Some had speculated, especially as the offseason drew on, that the Chicago Cubs and Kyle Schwarber might be able to come together on a lower value pact before spring training kicks off next month. After all, no one knows the slugging outfielder more intimately than the North Siders.
But that won’t be the case. Multiple reports indicate Schwarber has signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Washington Nationals – a club just one year removed from winning it all. The move reunites Schwarber with former Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, who manages Washington.
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This doesn’t change a whole lot for Chicago in my eyes. They still need a left fielder – and it seemed pretty clear Jed Hoyer was ready to go in a different direction at that position. After a disappointing 2020 campaign that saw Schwarber bat just .188, perhaps Hoyer is right.
We’ve talked about the potential of several former Cubs first-rounders in recent years, including the disgraced Addison Russell and the also-recently-non-tendered Albert Almora. But at some point, production has to outweigh potential.
Schwarber falls in that same group, although admittedly, we got far more production out of him than others. His best run came in the second half of 2019, when he and Nicholas Castellanos teamed up to form one of the best offensive outfield duos in all of baseball down the stretch.
Chicago had hoped he would build on that hot finish, but instead his flame extinguished and – like many players around the game – he really struggled at the plate in 2020. Given the pretty so-so baseball card numbers, it’s not hard at all to see why Washington thought he was well-worth $10 million.
The former number four overall pick ranked in the 95th percentile for exit velocity, the 86th for hard-hit rate and 75th in barrel rate. Throw in the fact he ranked in the top 17 percent of the league in walk rate, even in arguably his worst season in the big leagues and there’s a lot to like.
Pending the fate of the designated hitter in the NL this season, Schwarber will play left field for Washington – pushing Juan Soto over to right. As MLB Trade Rumors points out, the fact the Nats ponied up a sum north of his highest projected arbitration number tells you they weren’t alone in vying for his services.
While the Mets stole headlines this week in acquiring Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco – the Nationals definitely have the pieces to contend in the National League East this year. Wishing Schwarber all the best with his new club – we’ll miss you.