How the Red Sox could’ve kept Kyle Schwarber
The Red Sox should regret not trying to re-sign Kyle Schwarber
As Kyle Schwarber and the Philadelphia Phillies prepare for the club’s first World Series appearance since 2009, the Boston Red Sox are closing in on three weeks without baseball.
The contrast is stark and has been for months. Schwarber spent the regular season hitting a career-high and National League-leading 46 home runs. The Sox finished last in the American League East with 78 wins.
For months, the public has contemplated if losing Schwarber cost the Sox another shot at the postseason, though 46 home runs can only do so much when most of the pitching staff is injured simultaneously, among other issues. In response, members of the front office keep trying to convince everyone that Schwarber didn’t fit into the equation because JD Martinez opted into the final year of his contract.
There are a few reasons why their argument doesn’t hold water, and there’s a fairly straightforward way the Sox could’ve made it work.
It’s easy to refute the brass’ argument because having Martinez – who collected 20 homers between Opening Day and the end of July – certainly didn’t stop the Sox from acquiring Schwarber at the 2021 trade deadline. The Sox hoped Schwarber would be a postseason difference-maker last October, and he was; he homered in the Wild Card game, ALDS, and ALCS.
How was Schwarber less of a fit this year than last? Martinez was in the final year of his contract and Alex Verdugo ended up spending most of the second half of the season in right field, meaning Schwarber could’ve played left. He’s by no means an excellent defender, but having to use him in the outfield due to Bryce Harper’s UCL injury certainly didn’t keep the Phillies from the postseason.
Here’s an even more obvious solution for the supposed gridlock: Schwarber could have kept playing first base, and the Sox could have traded Bobby Dalbec last winter when his stock was high. The now-27-year-old hit 25 home runs and 21 doubles in 133 games last year and isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2024; that’s the kind of club control teams crave nowadays, and with Triston Casas on the rise, it was only a matter of time before the Sox would have a traffic jam on the right side of the infield. Instead, the Sox kept Dalbec and watched helplessly as his production plummeted, leading to a failed attempt to teach Franchy Cordero to play first. When that didn’t work out, they finally traded for Eric Hosmer, who only played 12 games before going on the Injured List until the final week of the season.
As for how Schwarber would’ve fit into the Sox beyond 2022, that’s fairly obvious. Martinez will be a free agent when the World Series ends, so they only would’ve overlapped for one season, if that; the Sox were listening to trade offers for Martinez this summer. When Martinez departed via trade or expiration in free agency, the Sox could then seamlessly move Schwarber into the DH role. One crowded season of sluggers wouldn’t have been the impasse the Sox want you to think it would be, especially since Martinez’s power dropped substantially.
In hindsight, Schwarber would have been a significantly better bridge to Casas than Dalbec or Cordero. And while the Sox only gave up Jay Groome for Hosmer, they’re in a bind now; when the San Diego Padres traded him, it triggered a full no-trade clause for the remainder of his deal. The Sox now need his permission if they want to ship him off, and he’s made it clear he only wants to play for a contender.
Ultimately, the Sox didn’t even really try to convince Schwarber to stay. During spring training, a source in the Phillies front office revealed that his deal was as good as done last November and that the Sox never made a serious effort to sway the slugger. Instead, they signed Trevor Story, who wasn’t exactly crucial to the equation, either. Schwarber is a bit younger and his Phillies contract is shorter and carries an AVV about $4M lower than Story’s, though it still wouldn’t have kept the Sox under the luxury tax threshold. Still, exceeding the threshold is more justified if the team is actually good.
Schwarber is thriving in Philly, and most Sox fans are nothing but thrilled for him. However, his success is also a reminder of how poorly constructed the 2022 Red Sox roster was, and how different things could have been.