Former Red Sox slugger Kyle Schwarber joins Home Run Derby

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 18: Kyle Schwarber #18 of the Boston Red Sox hits a grand slam home run during the second inning of game three of the 2021 American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on October 18, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 18: Kyle Schwarber #18 of the Boston Red Sox hits a grand slam home run during the second inning of game three of the 2021 American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on October 18, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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Former Red Sox star Kyle Schwarber is ready to launch home runs

Kyle from Waltham is ready to put on a show. In a video posted on his Instagram, former Boston Red Sox star Kyle Schwarber announced his intent to participate in the Home Run Derby during the 2022 All-Star festivities.

Schwarber enters the day leading the National League with 28 home runs and 61 runs scored. He’s been on a blistering pace since June when he smashed 12 home runs and he’s already added five more this month. That includes back-to-back multi-home run games on July 5 and 6.

Schwarber has been selected as an All-Star reserve for the second consecutive year. He wasn’t able to participate in last year’s event due to an injury that sidelined him until August 13, when he made his Red Sox debut following a trade deadline deal with the Washington Nationals.

A similar power surge saw Schwarber tally 16 home runs in June of last season but he landed on the injured list shortly after. His power dipped when he returned with the Red Sox but he still swatted seven homers while slashing .291/.435/.522 in 41 games.

The Red Sox were criticized for not re-signing Schwarber, who inked a 4-year, $79 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in March. The backlash has grown louder ever since Schwarber was announced as an All-Star.

A Boston lineup that ranks 20th in the majors in home runs could certainly use Schwarber’s power stroke but a reunion felt like a long shot given his awkward fit on the field. The Red Sox tried unsuccessfully to transition Schwarber to first base but he ended up seeing the bulk of his playing time in left field or as the designated hitter.

The Red Sox made it work for about two months but finding a consistent role for Schwarber entering this season would have been a challenge with Alex Verdugo locked into left field and J.D. Martinez claiming the DH role. Perhaps a full offseason to learn first base would have led to Schwarber upgrading a major weakness for the Red Sox, who rank 26th in the majors with a .283 wOBA and 28th with 79 wRC+ from their first basemen this season, per FanGraphs.

We’ll never know if he could have adapted to that position or if he was willing to do so. Even if the Red Sox were willing to pay up, Schwarber may have preferred the Phillies if they were offering more playing time at the position he’s most comfortable with.

The Red Sox also anticipated getting a mid-season upgrade from one of their top prospects, but an ankle injury has stalled the arrival of Triston Casas. He’s beginning a rehab assignment today and could be ready to make his big league debut around the same time as the trade deadline. A long-term investment in Schwarber would have created a potential roadblock for Casas.

As enticing as Schwarber’s home run production has been, he’s only hitting .219 this season. His .332 OBP would be his lowest since 2017, excluding the small sample of the shortened 2020 season.

Boston ended up spending on Trevor Story instead. While his production has been mildly disappointing, hitting .222 with a .715 OPS, he provides decent pop to replace some of the power production they are missing with Schwarber’s departure. Story is tied for 15th in the American League with 15 home runs and he’s 5th with 58 RBI. He’s swiped a team-high 10 bases, adding a speed element that the Red Sox have lacked in recent years. Most importantly, he’s providing Gold Glove caliber defense at second base.

His production in other areas explains why Story’s 2.3 WAR tops Schwarber’s 1.7 WAR. If the Red Sox had to choose between the two, give me the all-around performance of Story over the one-trick power pony.

The Red Sox still need to find a solution for first base, whether it be a promotion for Casas or a deadline deal. If they go the trade route again, they need to acquire a player who has actually played the position this time.

Red Sox fans can be happy for Schwarber getting another All-Star nod and get excited about seeing him launch massive bombs in the Home Run Derby. Watching him swat shots over the fence will be a treat for those who don’t follow many National League games.

At the same time, we can acknowledge that Schwarber wasn’t the right fit for this roster. It doesn’t mean the Red Sox were being cheap, they simply preferred to allocate their resources elsewhere. Ultimately, the decision can still work out for both sides.

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