Could Kyle Schwarber be the additional middle-of-the-order bat that Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski acknowledged that the team needs to add this offseason?
On the latest edition of “Big Time Baseball,” Audacy Sports MLB Insider Jon Heyman predicted some free-agent landing spots. With the Phillies having hired Kevin Long as their hitting coach earlier this month, Heyman believes that a reunion between Long and Schwarber could make sense:
“…you mentioned Schwarber … who is obviously an ex-Cub … he did come to the Red Sox via the Nats, you can’t forget that. I’m gonna concentrate on the fact that he was with the Nats more than the Cubs and say that Kevin Long helped him improve his swing and he really took off as a member of the Nats and he continued that as a member of the Red Sox. I’m gonna say — now that Kevin Long is the hitting coach of the Phillies — that Schwarber winds up with the Phillies. And again, we’re looking at the possibility of the universal DH, so there could be room for [Rhys] Hoskins and Schwarber in Philly.”
It’s true that Long did play a major role in reviving Schwarber’s career.
A 2016 World Series hero, Schwarber was non-tendered by the Cubs last winter after he slashed just .188/.308/.393 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo inked Schwarber to a one-year/$10 million deal last offseason. That proved to be one of the best deals of the offseason, as Schwarber homered 16 times and drove in 30 runs in June, propelling him to his first All-Star Game appearance. Before the trade deadline, the Red Sox acquired Schwarber from the Nationals. Schwarber posted a .957 OPS in 41 regular games with the Red Sox, cementing that he’ll decline his half of an $11 million mutual option for 2022, triggering a $3 million buyout.
After reaching the ALCS with the Red Sox, Schwarber told Alex Spier of The Boston Globe that he’d be “all ears” if the team approached him with a lucrative new contract offer. It’s unclear if the Red Sox view Schwarber playing some combination of first base and left field as something that would be sustainable over the course of the first year, because DH seemingly won’t be an option unless J.D. Martinez declines his $19.35 million option this winter.
It’s possible that the DH will be an option in the National League as part of the new collective bargaining agreement that will need to be in place before the 2022 season. Right or wrong, the Phillies plan to move forward with Alec Bohm at third base. Rhys Hoskins had -6 defensive runs saved at first base in 2021, so he’d certainly be a candidate to get some at-bats at DH, but the guess here is that the Phillies wouldn’t commit to having any one player as their full-time DH if the position becomes universal in 2022. They’d probably like to keep open the option of Didi Gregorius, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto all getting at-bats at DH as well.
That said, someone will need to get the bulk of the at-bats if a DH comes. Schwarber could be that guy. He could also be a candidate to replace Andrew McCutchen in left field, with the Phillies likely to decline his $15 million club option for 2022. However, priority No. 1 for the Phillies this offseason may be to improve their defense, and Schwarber had -5 defensive runs saved in 724 innings between the Nationals and Red Sox in left field this past season.
Michael Ginnitti of Spotrac projects that Schwarber will sign a two-year/$24 million deal this offseason. Because he was traded in the middle of the season, the Phillies wouldn’t need to surrender draft compensation to sign him.
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