Ranking the Chances for Every MLB Team to Land Kyle Schwarber in Free AgencyDecember 4, 2020
Ranking the Chances for Every MLB Team to Land Kyle Schwarber in Free Agency
The Chicago Cubs pulled a surprise on Wednesday when they declined to tender a contract to slugger Kyle Schwarber for the 2021 season. As a result, he's now a free agent.
Though every team now has a chance to sign him, we thought we'd narrow things down by ranking each club's likely standing in the Schwarber Sweepstakes.
This involved looking for clubs with a need for a power hitter—Schwarber has topped 30 home runs in a season twice, peaking with 38 blasts in 2019—and openings in left field or at designated hitter. Regarding the latter position, it's notably still unclear as to whether the DH will remain in the National League next season.
Money is one thing that may not be much of an issue in the race to sign Schwarber. The Cubs' alternative to cutting him loose was paying him as much as $9.3 million in arbitration. If they didn't think he's worth that much, the open market probably won't either.
Now then, let's count 'em down.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
Because they're in the early stages of a rebuild, the Pirates are only signing Schwarber if his market fails to develop and they smell a chance to add a piece of trade bait. But the odds of that happening are beyond slim.
29. Baltimore Orioles
Even if the Orioles weren't trying to save money during their rebuild—which they are—they wouldn't have an opening for Schwarber in their everyday lineup. Left field belongs to DJ Stewart, while DH belongs to Trey Mancini.
28. Detroit Tigers
Even if Schwarber was willing to sign with a team that's likely years away from contention, the Tigers wouldn't have a clear spot for him. With Miguel Cabrera locked at DH, left field is the only avenue for Detroit to see what it has in Cristin Stewart.
27. San Diego Padres
The Padres had one of baseball's best offenses in 2020, and they effectively set their outfield for next season when they tendered Tommy Pham. Such things up to neither a need nor room for Schwarber.
26. Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay's lineup already leans left, with a World Series hero (Randy Arozarena) in left field and an All-Star (Austin Meadows) at DH. That makes Schwarber a luxury for the Rays, who aren't exactly known for spending money on such things.
25. Cincinnati Reds
In Jesse Winker, the Reds already have a left-handed hitter in left field. Besides, a low-average hitter like Schwarber is the last thing that this offense needs after it hit an MLB-low .212 in 2020.
24. Philadelphia Phillies
Schwarber isn't a catcher or a relief pitcher, so he would fill neither of the Phillies' two biggest needs. To boot, the Phils probably aren't in a hurry to move Andrew McCutchen out of left field.
23. New York Mets
The Mets could stand to add another hitter, but the left-leaning nature of their lineup ought to push them toward a right-handed slugger. Ideally, said slugger would play center field, third base, second base or catcher. Schwarber is none of these things.
22. Los Angeles Angels
Though the Angels could use another left-handed hitter, pitching is a far greater priority right now. And because of Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani, they don't have room for Schwarber in left field or the DH spot anyway.
21. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers do want to upgrade their offense, but preferably at first base or third base. Their outfield is solid, particularly in left field with 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich slated to play there every day.
20. Chicago Cubs
Despite the non-tender, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer indicated that the team will leave the door open for Schwarber to come back. But since he's likely to have plenty of options for a fresh start elsewhere, it's doubtful that he'll actually walk through it.
No Clear Fit
19. Arizona Diamondbacks
Though Schwarber's power may appeal to the Snakes after they ranked 29th with just 58 home runs in 2020, they're set in left field with David Peralta and in right field with Kole Calhoun.
18. Colorado Rockies
The Rox badly need to upgrade an offense that posted an 80 OPS+ in 2020. Yet they already have three left-handed hitters in their outfield, so they'll probably only get in on Schwarber if the DH is confirmed to return to the National League.
17. Kansas City Royals
The Royals got an MLB-low-tying 12 home runs from the left side of the plate in 2020, but their outfield would seem to be set. Even if it wasn't, the notion of Schwarber roaming Kauffman Stadium's huge left field might scare them off.
16. Miami Marlins
The Marlins tied the Royals in getting an MLB-low 12 home runs from the left side this past season, and their lineup is set to lean right once again in 2021. Trouble is, their one and only left-handed regular (Corey Dickerson) also happens to be a Gold Glove-winning left fielder.
15. San Francisco Giants
The Giants do want to add a left-handed hitter, but they already have two good ones in left field (Alex Dickerson) and right field (Mike Yastrzemski). There's also the less-than-inspiring thought of Schwarber having to handle Oracle Park's gigantic outfield.
14. Texas Rangers
With Shin-Soo Choo out of the picture, the Rangers have an opening for Schwarber at DH. But he may want nothing to do with a club that just posted the worst record in the American League, much less its power-suppressing home ballpark.
13. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are an interesting possibility for Schwarber because he could fit in a dangerous platoon with A.J. Pollock in left field. But it's hard to imagine him playing any positions apart from left field, which doesn't mesh with the Dodgers' fondness for versatile fielders.
12. Oakland Athletics
The A's could use another left-handed slugger to go with Matt Olson, and stationing Schwarber in left field would free up Mark Canha to serve in a roving platoon role. Yet it's hard to see the A's as the most interested suitor for Schwarber, and thus hard to imagine them presenting the winning bid.
11. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners could indeed use a left-handed slugger, and they hypothetically have space for Schwarber in either left field or at designated hitter. But they might want to focus on their pitching, while he might prefer to join a team with a more open contention window.
10. Washington Nationals
The Nationals do need a middle-of-the-order hitter to pair with Juan Soto, who could potentially move to right field on a full-time basis in deference to Schwarber. But given how sorely they missed Anthony Rendon in 2020, the Nats might prefer that their new slugger be a right-handed-hitting third baseman.
9. Houston Astros
Though 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez will be back at DH next season following surgery on both knees, the Astros will have a place for Schwarber in left field if they can't re-sign Michael Brantley. However, bringing back Brantley is reportedly their first choice.
8. New York Yankees
Whenever a left-handed power hitter is on the free-agent market, it's hard not to wonder if the New York Yankees might end up with him.
They do, after all, play in a stadium with a notoriously short porch in right field. Schwarber is precisely the type of hitter who would take aim at it on a regular basis. Though he has booming power to all fields, nearly half (59, to be exact) of his 121 career homers have gone out to right field.
Ah, but is there a fit for Schwarber in The Bronx?
Maybe, if the Yankees want to add a platoon partner for Clint Frazier in left field. But that's probably not what Schwarber is looking for right now, and Frazier's .802 OPS against right-handers certainly raises a question of whether he even needs a platoon partner.
Cleveland hasn't yet traded All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, yet its need for a serious offensive upgrade already looms large.
Cleveland hitters managed only 59 home runs with an 86 OPS+ in 2020. Its outfield was a particularly troublesome offensive black hole, producing an MLB-low .575 OPS and 11 home runs.
In theory, that's where Schwarber could help Cleveland the most. And while it's typically hard to count on this franchise being a major player for a star free agent, this particular star won't be that expensive. Plus, Cleveland stands to save roughly $20 million if and when it moves Lindor.
Mind you, Cleveland could more so use a right-handed slugger to take some pressure off Franmil Reyes, who also seems pretty well locked into everyday DH duty.
6. Boston Red Sox
More than anything, the Boston Red Sox need to add arms after suffering through a 5.58 ERA in 2020.
Yet their offense also has some holes in it. The big ones are at second base and in center field, the latter of which has been opened up by Jackie Bradley Jr.'s free agency. Obviously, Schwarber isn't a candidate to fill either spot.
But if Boston is comfortable with playing Andrew Benintendi in center, it could gravitate toward Schwarber as its new left fielder. Specifically, the club might like how his ever-escalating hard-hit rate to the opposite field would play in tandem with Fenway Park's famed Green Monster.
Alternatively, the Red Sox could re-sign Bradley and keep Benintendi in left. Because if nothing else, the latter at least has familiarity with the defensive challenges of playing the aforementioned Monster.
5. St. Louis Cardinals
After the year they just had, nobody needs an influx of power as badly as the St. Louis Cardinals.
Though the caveat is that they only played 58 games, the Cardinals ranked dead last in hitting only 51 home runs in 2020. Brad Miller and Tyler O'Neill tied for the team lead with seven long balls, and the former is now a free agent.
After six seasons in the NL Central, Schwarber is obviously plenty familiar with the Cardinals. And if he fancies getting back at the Cubs for pulling the rug out from under him Wednesday, he may be all the more eager to take the Cardinals' call.
There's a chance, though, that Schwarber would be reluctant to play at Busch Stadium on a regular basis. The 28 games he's experienced there throughout his career have yielded an ugly .155/.287/.268 batting line and only three home runs.
Out of Atlanta's 60 games in 2020, Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall started in left field for 50 of them.
Ozuna was already a free agent, and now Duvall is too after he also got non-tendered Wednesday. Even if he doesn't bat right-handed like either of those two, Schwarber would make sense for Atlanta as a new left fielder on a couple of levels.
Though he probably wouldn't live up to the stellar production (i.e. a 1.067 OPS and 18 home runs) that Atlanta got out of Ozuna, Schwarber's left-handed thump would help balance a lineup that got only 13 homers out of left-handed hitters not named Freddie Freeman in 2020.
Of course, Atlanta could be a more serious player for Schwarber if the DH is confirmed to return to the NL for 2021. If not, Atlanta could still plan on downplaying his defensive issues by replacing him late in games with Gold Glover Ender Inciarte.
3. Minnesota Twins
Power wasn't in short supply in Minnesota in 2019, wherein the Twins' "Bomba Squad" went off for a single-season record 307 home runs.
It was no small surprise, then, when the Twins slipped to sixth in the majors in home runs this past season. After leading the team with 16 homers in 2020, Nelson Cruz is now a free agent. Following his non-tender Wednesday, so is 13-homer slugger Eddie Rosario.
Granted, the chances of Cruz re-signing with Minnesota for at least the 2021 season seem high. But if he doesn't, Schwarber would fit with the Twins as a slugging DH. In the event that Cruz does re-sign, Schwarber could fill Rosario's shoes in left field instead.
Or, the Twins could turn to other needs as they wait on Cruz. Notably, these include a handful of openings in both their starting rotation and their bullpen.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays established themselves as an up-and-coming contender in 2020 mostly because of their offense, which was generally terrific.
It did, however, have one flaw. Whereas Toronto hit 88 total home runs, only 25 came from the left side of the plate. And after non-tendering Travis Shaw on Wednesday, the Blue Jays offense is currently slated to be even more right-handed in 2021.
This is where Schwarber could come in, and the Jays might even have an ideal opening for him. If Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s weight loss leads to another chance at third base, Rowdy Tellez could shift to first base and thereby open up the DH spot for Schwarber.
If there's a catch, it's that Toronto might have its sights set higher on guys like George Springer (here), DJ LeMahieu (here) and Marcell Ozuna (here).
1. Chicago White Sox
It took some time for the Chicago White Sox's offense to get going in 2020. But once it did, it was one of the five best in MLB from Aug. 16 through the end of the season.
Much like Toronto's offense, however, the White Sox's was lopsided. They hit 96 home runs overall, but just 15 of those came from the left side of the dish.
The White Sox were thus in the market for a left-handed slugger even before the non-tender deadline. Now this need is much stronger after they let Nomar Mazara go Wednesday.
If the White Sox were to turn to Schwarber to fill this need, they'd have to live with subpar defense in left field from either him or Eloy Jimenez. But with Gold Glover Luis Robert in center field and either Leury Garcia or Adam Engel coming off the bench, they'd have the personnel to limit the damage.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.