Red Sox free-agent Kyle Schwarber is drawing interest from the NL
Kyle Schwarber‘s stint in the American League might be brief. While the Boston Red Sox remain interested in re-signing the free-agent slugger, they will have some competition from one of the big-budget teams in the National League.
According to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Phillies are in “full pursuit” of Schwarber. The sides appear to be in serious talks and could hash out a deal before a looming lockout freezes operations. Schwarber is a potential fit who could address multiple needs for the Phillies, as Salisbury explains.
"“He could fill a hole in left field for the Phillies and his strong on-base skills could make him a candidate to see some time in the leadoff spot, though [Phillies president of baseball operations Dave] Dombrowski has prioritized a middle of the order run producer and Schwarber fits that description.”"
This report lines up with a tweet from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, which included the Phillies among the teams interested in Schwarber, along with the Red Sox, Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins.
Schwarber spent the first six seasons of his career with the Chicago Cubs. He joined the Washington Nationals for about half a season before he was dealt to the Red Sox at this year’s trade deadline. He hit .266 with a .928 OPS, 32 home runs and 71 RBI in 113 games split between the two teams this year.
His bat fits any lineup but where he fits on the field is a challenge that the Red Sox faced when they acquired him last summer. He played multiple positions this year but isn’t viewed as a strong defensive player at any of them. It’s interesting to see that outside of Boston, the teams showing the most interest in Schwarber reside in the NL. The universal DH is expected to part of the negotiations for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement but it’s far from confirmed that the role will be adopted by the senior circuit. This signals that multiple teams would be comfortable using Schwarber in the field.
During his tenure in Boston, Schwarber split time fairly evenly between left field, first base and DH. The move to first base was an experiment born out of necessity. Boston wanted his bat but the clearest path to playing time was at first. Bobby Dalbec‘s second-half surge forced the Red Sox to find alternative ways to utilize Schwarber.
The Red Sox value depth and versatility but finding adequate playing time for everyone will be a tough task for manager Alex Cora if Schwarber returns. Cora managed the juggling routine admirably for about two months but doing so for a full season is more of a challenge.
Bringing Schwarber back could also give the Red Sox the flexibility to trade J.D. Martinez for a pitcher or an upgrade at second base. Boston has done little to address both areas of need in free agency but might prefer the trade market. Martinez would be an enticing trade chip who should provide a decent return even with one year remaining on his deal.
If they have trouble finding a trade partner for an expensive DH, the Red Sox could consider trading Hunter Renfroe instead to free up room in the outfield. Dalbec could be deemed expendable in a trade with Triston Casas arriving soon, allowing Schwarber to continue learning first base until their top prospect is ready. Either way, Schwarber probably slides into the DH role in 2023 when Martinez’s contract expires.
As questionable as his position on the field appears at the moment, Schwarber proved himself to be a great fit in the lineup and in the clubhouse. The Red Sox are genuinely interested in retaining him and will figure out the best way to utilize him later.
We know that Dombrowski is never shy about throwing money around, which makes the Phillies a threat to swoop in with an offer the Red Sox aren’t comfortable matching. The Marlins and Rockies aren’t typically big spenders but we’ve seen several other low-budget teams add significant payroll this offseason in an effort to jump back into contention, so we can’t count those clubs out from following a similar path.
If the Red Sox really want Schwarber back, they are going to have to prove it with a lucrative offer to fend off those NL suitors. That could make him a risky investment if the plan is for him to be a DH for the majority of the deal, which doesn’t fit the mold for how Chaim Bloom operates. As interest in Schwarber heats up, it’s beginning to look more likely that Kyle will be leaving Waltham.