Red Sox Rumors: Interest in Kyle Schwarber, deal with Cubs doubtful

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 30: Kyle Schwarber
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 30: Kyle Schwarber /

The Boston Red Sox have interest in Kyle Schwarber. While the Cubs are unlikely to deal him, Boston should be hesitant to trade Jackie Bradley for him.

Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowsk will leave no stone unturned in his quest to find a power bat to anchor the lineup. Even if it means kicking the tires on players who may not be available.

ESPN’s Scott Lauber reports that the Red Sox have shown interest in Kyle Schwarber, yet cautions that he Chicago Cubs are unlikely to trade him.

Normally that would be the end of it and we’d chalk up the mention of Schwarber to being just another rumor. That was until USA Today’s Bob Nightengale threw another log on this Hot Stove fire with a report that the Red Sox have made Jackie Bradley available in their pursuit of a power bat.

While this report makes no direct mention of Schwarber, it’s interesting to note that Nightengale ended his tweet with #Cubs. We can assume that Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are off the table in any discussions so the implication Nightengale seems to be making would lean toward Schwarber being the target in a potential Bradley deal.

In which case Red Sox fans should hope that Theo Epstein remains unwilling to trade Schwarber. While he fits the bill as a power threat this team sorely needs, the catcher-turned-outfielder isn’t worth surrendering Bradley for.

Schwarber took the league by storm in 2015 when he blasted 16 home runs in only 273 plate appearances, then added five more in the postseason. After missing nearly the entire 2016 season with a torn ACL, Schwarber returned this year to prove his power is legit with 30 home runs in 129 games.

As impressive as his home run potential is, Schwarber isn’t without his flaws. He hit a pitiful .211 with a .782 OPS this year. His 30.9 K% was the seventh highest strikeout rate in the majors, – higher than New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.

The lack of production can partially be attributed to returning from a devastating knee injury, as there certainly would have been some rust to knock off following a lost season. He could return to his rookie season level, yet are those numbers significantly better than what Bradley can produce?

In 2015, Schwarber hit .246 with a .842 OPS and 16 home runs in essentially half a season. Given that he hit 30 homers this year, we can expect him to reach that mark again with a batting average and OPS that rise to levels resembling his 2015 form.

Bradley is coming off a down season at the plate in his own right, yet he showed his upside with an All-Star campaign in 2016. He hit .267 with a .835 OPS and 26 home runs that season.

While Bradley saw his numbers at the plate fall across the board this year, he remained a valuable asset by impacting other aspects of the game. He still managed to produce a 2.8 WAR in a season where he was a below-average hitter. Despite those 30 homers, Schwarber’s limitations in every other aspect of his game resulted in a 0.0 WAR.

If you double the 1.2 WAR Schwarber produced as a rookie to account for a full season, he still provides less value than Bradley did this year. Even if his offensive numbers spike as he approaches his peak, his defensive shortcomings make it hard to envision Schwarber topping the 5.3 WAR Bradley produced in 2016.

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While Bradley is an elite center fielder, Schwarber is a liability in left, where he produced -9 defensive runs saved in 110 games this year. The Red Sox could conceivably shift Andrew Benintendi to center but he would be a downgrade from Bradley at the position. Pairing that move with plugging Schwarber into left field and Boston would turn the best defensive outfield in baseball into a weakness.

Schwarber is better suited as a designated hitter, which limits his value and opens a hole in the outfield. Perhaps it would make more sense if the trade was followed by the signing of a free agent outfielder, yet top target J.D. Martinez is no Gold Glove candidate in his own right. Putting Martinez in left, Schwarber at DH and locking Hanley Ramirez in at first base would solve the power drought in Boston but would also make the Red Sox a horrendous defensive team.

The 24-year old Schwarber has untapped potential that could lead to him developing into a star but he’s not at that level yet. Given that he’s under team control until 2022 you can understand why Chicago would have little interest in moving him when his value is low coming off a poor season.

On the other hand, a win-now team like the Red Sox shouldn’t give up on an established contributor like Bradley. If he were the centerpiece in a deal for Giancarlo Stanton that would be one thing but Schwarber provided replacement level value even with all those home runs this year. At his best, Bradley can produce numbers that are close to what Schwarber has done in his brief career while providing excellent defense at a premium position.

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Schwarber has the greater upside but if the Red Sox deal Bradley it should be for someone with less short-term risk. They have the financial resources to find a power threat without opening another hole on the roster. Meanwhile, the Cubs would be better off holding on to Schwarber until he has the chance to improve his value with a bounce back season, making his rumored deal a bad trade for both sides.