In an offseason that’s inevitably going to be defined by the mega contracts that powerful hitters like Corey Seager and Carlos Correa will receive, Kyle Schwarber stands out as an option that would improve a lot of lineups without too long of a commitment and too much money spent. That seems to check both of the Yankees front office’s requirements for what they’re willing to give out this year — so far at least. However, Schwarber’s defensive positions ultimately mean he’s likely not a fit to come to New York.
After spending all of his career to date with the Chicago Cubs, Schwarber signed a one-year contract with the Washington Nationals for 2021 and started very slowly — through April, he’d hit only two home runs and was hitting .206. The Nats were quite bad, as this DC resident can attest, and it was looking like they might not be able to ship him away midseason for prospects.
But over the summer, Schwarber got red hot. His June was monstrous, with 16 home runs in 27 games. That got him sent to the Red Sox, even while on the injured list with hamstring strain.
Though he’s spent most of his games in MLB as a left fielder, the Red Sox tried him out at first base, and if he were to become a Yankee that could be where he’d play, assuming the front office aren’t all of a sudden Luke Voit fans again. Joey Gallo, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron Judge will be the everyday outfielders barring a trade, so there’s no room for him out there, and Giancarlo Stanton will likely be taking the DH spot a majority of the time.
Unfortunately, Schwarber’s defense at any spot is not well-rated. According to FanGraphs, his UZR in 2021 was -3.4, and Baseball Savant has his Outs Above Average at -10 and in the first percentile in baseball — literally the worst it could possibly be. The last thing the Yankees need is more bad glovework in the infield. Even if he works at his defense at first during the offseason or over the lockout, it’s unlikely to bet on any major improvement there.
Schwarber certainly can hit — he had a 3.1 fWAR in 2021 even considering his bad defense. However, his 2021 BABIP of .306 is by far the highest of his career, suggesting he was lucky even considering his cold April. Schwarber will be 29 in March, so he shouldn’t be declining but also might not do any better than he’s done before. Still, for a team in need of power that’s perfectly acceptable.
Power potential is one thing the Yankees don’t need any more of, however. The only way I see a Schwarber signing making sense is if they trade Joey Gallo, but that wouldn’t make sense because Gallo’s upside is much higher than Schwarber’s — he can provide even more power in the outfield if he shakes off his post-trade slump and returns to his previous form with the Texas Rangers, plus make incredible plays on defense.
Schwarber will certainly do better this offseason than the one-year, $10 million contract he got from the Nationals a year ago. As fun as he was to watch this past summer, though, the fit with the Yankees doesn’t appear to be there unless the roster is changed significantly.