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Saturday, January 09, 2021

Nationals sign ex-Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber to one-year contract, per report

The Washington Nationals have made another addition to their lineup. The club signed outfielder Kyle Schwarber to a one-year contract on Saturday, reports Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. The deal is worth $10 million, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. The Nationals have not yet confirmed the signing.

Schwarber, 28 in March, was non-tendered by the Cubs last month. He was projected to make approximately $8 million through arbitration in 2021. Schwarber had a down 2020 season, hitting .188/.308/.393 with 11 home runs in 59 games. He is expected to step into left field with Juan Soto moving over to right.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 11:07 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: kyle schwarber, nationals

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   1. reech Posted: January 09, 2021 at 11:35 AM (#5998583)
Not to pick on poor Robbie Grossman anymore, but one year at 10 million for Schwarber sounds an awful lot better than 2 years for 10 million for Grossman.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 11:48 AM (#5998586)
I don't think Schwarber goes to Detroit on a one year deal. If you're going for a make-good year, why not play for a contender that will get some press?
   3. TJ Posted: January 09, 2021 at 12:30 PM (#5998597)
Have to admit I didn’t think Schwarber would get $10 million per.
   4. DL from MN Posted: January 09, 2021 at 12:42 PM (#5998600)
why not play for a contender


Interesting to think of the Nationals as a contender when they might be 4th in their own division.
   5. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: January 09, 2021 at 12:57 PM (#5998602)
This is more than his projected arb award. I wonder if the cubs misjudged his market. Even just some low A lottery ticket would have been better than a non tender. Now there's rumors of some other cubs move today that'll suck.

Anyway...best of luck to him. Really looked like he'd turned a corner in 2019 and I still think he's gonna put it all together at some point. Probably as a full time DH (though I will go to my grave saying his defensive struggles are overblown thanks to the bad 2015 nlcs).
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 01:34 PM (#5998610)

Not to pick on poor Robbie Grossman anymore, but one year at 10 million for Schwarber sounds an awful lot better than 2 years for 10 million for Grossman.


Last three seasons:
Grossman 3.9 rWAR, 2.9 fWAR, 103 wRC+
Schwarber 4.0 rWAR, 6.1 fWAR, 113 wRC+

Not as big a difference as I might guess. Grossman was good in a shortened 2020 season, Schwarber was bad. Schwarber is four years younger.
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 01:35 PM (#5998611)
Interesting to think of the Nationals as a contender when they might be 4th in their own division.

They've still go Soto, Turner, Scherzer, Stasburg, and Corbin. Off season isn't over.

I don't buy the Braves and Mets as juggernauts, and the Phillies don't seem to want to compete.
   8. RJ in TO Posted: January 09, 2021 at 01:47 PM (#5998616)
I don't think Schwarber goes to Detroit on a one year deal. If you're going for a make-good year, why not play for a contender that will get some press?
This is the major issue. If you're a player who has choices, and the money and contract length is the same, why would you go to a bad team?

The Tigers are currently in the same spot the Pirates and Royals were 20 years ago, where they're going to be limited to either overpaying for free agents, signing guys who don't have other options, or a combination of both.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 02:03 PM (#5998622)
The Tigers are currently in the same spot the Pirates and Royals were 20 years ago, where they're going to be limited to either overpaying for free agents, signing guys who don't have other options, or a combination of both.

In that sense the two year deal for Grossman makes sense. If he can repeat the 125 wRC+ from 2020, he's a decent trade chip.
   10. puck Posted: January 09, 2021 at 02:05 PM (#5998625)
If you're a player who has choices, and the money and contract length is the same, why would you go to a bad team?

Different sport, but supposedly Jeremi Grant wanted to be the man for the Pistons.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 02:07 PM (#5998630)
Different sport, but supposedly Jeremi Grant wanted to be the man for the Pistons.

I'd imagine it's a lot different calculus in a league where 4-6 teams have legit Championship aspirations, vs. one where half the league does.

Also opportunities are divided fairly equally by rule in MLB, and not at all in NBA.
   12. Rally Posted: January 09, 2021 at 02:11 PM (#5998633)
Schwarber benefits from the non-tender. He made 7 million last year. As a left fielder with a sub .200 BA, 88 OPS+, and not a great defender, it’s hard to see much of a raise. MLBTR’s arbitration estimates pegged him for 7-9 million.

Seems like a trade could have benefitted the Cubs and the Nats.

Does he move to right or does Soto?
   13. Rally Posted: January 09, 2021 at 02:15 PM (#5998636)
Both players have a handful of innings in right, but most of their time in left. Soto is younger and seems more mobile, but Schwarber looks to have the better arm. Soto had one outfield assist last year, and zero in a full 2019 season.
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 02:21 PM (#5998643)
Have they said yet if there will be a DH in the NL this year? This kinda seems to assume there will be.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 02:58 PM (#5998654)
Have they said yet if there will be a DH in the NL this year? This kinda seems to assume there will be.

I thought they were leaning towards no.
   16. Mayor Blomberg Posted: January 09, 2021 at 03:01 PM (#5998655)
I thought they were leaning towards no.


Same here; in fact, I thought it had been announced.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: January 09, 2021 at 04:15 PM (#5998670)
I think it was announced in a "not for now" way -- i.e. let's see what we might negotiate, let's see if we have a full-ish season, etc.

It is odd that he got as much as $10 ... I suppose it means there were several teams willing to go $8-9 and the Nats won the auction at $10. Does suggest the Cubs could have gotten a small piece for him but really what does $2 M get you in prospects?

Schwarber, Soto and Josh Bell on the same team -- is Primer "defense doesn't matter" 2003 the GM of this team? :-) I agree that he's not terrible in the OF. He lumbers but he makes the right play and catches what he gets to. You probably won't want him out there in his 30s but that's not the Nats' concern.

A key question is his performance vs LHP. He had stunk then in 2019 he was solid. His brief 2020 though he was even worse than usual but then his vRHP plummeted as well so maybe it was just a 2020 thing.

And I can't imagine any reason you'd want 1 year of Schwarber rather than 2 years of Grossman at the same price, especially if you're Detroit. Hard to see where the bWAR v fWAR difference is on Grossman. It's nearly all 2018 where fg gives him nearly 4 fewer runs with the bat and makes him 3 runs worse on baserunning then another 2-3 runs somemwhere which are odd spots for the two systems to disagree. On Shcwarber there's about a 6 run difference on offense but it's mainly on defense: UZR rated Schwarber as +10 in 2018 (I'll take the under!)

FWIW, Statcast rates Grossman +5 for 2018-20; Statcast really doesn't like Schwarber putting him at -21. If we used statcast's defensive numbers, Grossman would have a pretty clear edge. (I don't think Schwarber was that bad.)

By the way, fg has added Statcast offensive measures (EV, LA, etc.) to their player pages. (but not Statcast defense.)
   18. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 09, 2021 at 04:20 PM (#5998674)
Does he move to right or does Soto?
Soto to RF seems to be the plan. He reportedly mostly played RF in his brief time in the minors.
   19. TJ Posted: January 09, 2021 at 04:46 PM (#5998684)
From MLB Trade Rumors:
The signing has been officially announced by the Nationals. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the deal also contains an $11MM mutual option for the 2022 season. That option contains a $3MM buyout, so Schwarber’s guaranteed money breaks down as that $3MM plus $7MM in salary.

So Schwarber will get either $10 million for one year or $18 million for two if the option is picked up. I would hope that Detroit offered him two years, $16 million, with maybe some incentives. I would risk the extra $6 million over the cost for Grossman based on Schwarber’s being younger and having some upside.

Perhaps they did and Schwarber is just betting on himself bouncing back on a one year deal and nailing down a bigger deal in 2022. Nothing wrong with that...what irks me is that my beloved Tigers didn’t trade some lottery ticket to the Cubs for Schwarber and pay the $8 million arb number...
   20. Walt Davis Posted: January 09, 2021 at 04:58 PM (#5998686)
I would normally probably look at 2018-20 for something like this but given 2020, I'll push back to 2017. I don't know if it makes a difference. Anyway, with a min of 900 PA over those 4 seasons, Grossman ranks 155th in WAR and Schwarber 176th (in about 250 more PA). To make some adjustment for PT, it might be better to use WAA (dropping the PA min to 400) -- Grossman 247th, Schwarber 327th. That's of course not impressive for either one of them but they are both quite clearly in at least the "useful" range. If we used fWAR instead, then Schwarber well ahead of Grossman; if we used statcast defense, Grossman probably goes up and Schwarber down.

Anyway, obviously neither guy seems a good bet for a long-term contract but neither got a long-term contract. The going rate for "useful" these days seems in the $3-6 range so Grossman's about right, Schwarber you're paying extra for his remaining potential to break out I guess. The question with Grossman is more "did you really need to go 2 years?" -- that's not likely to bite the Tigers in the butt but you'd obviously prefer 1/$5 with a $5 option with a $1 buyout. Maybe the price you have to pay because you're the Tigers.

Grossman also has more experience in RF and even some in CF along with a DH spot he can rotate into -- nobody would describe Grossman as versatile but he appears more versatile than Schwarber. (I thought Schwarber had a couple of games at 1B but he's credited with 1 appearance of 0 defensive innings ... I don't know how that happens ... he PH'd for the 1B, took the field, then pulled as part of a double-switch when a PH was announced?)

But I think I'd rather have Eddie Rosario anyway -- at least he's been a consistently decent hitter (107-119 OPS+ for 2017-20). B-R also rates him as a good baserunner and DP avoider.
   21. TJ Posted: January 09, 2021 at 05:06 PM (#5998688)
But I think I'd rather have Eddie Rosario anyway -- at least he's been a consistently decent hitter (107-119 OPS+ for 2017-20). B-R also rates him as a good baserunner and DP avoider.


So would I just to not have to watch Rosario beat the living tar out of my beloved Tigers pitching staff for another season!
   22. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: January 09, 2021 at 06:44 PM (#5998703)
If you're a player who has choices, and the money and contract length is the same, why would you go to a bad team?


Less work for the same money?

/jk
   23. Ron J Posted: January 09, 2021 at 07:30 PM (#5998713)
#20 Walk off in the bottom of the 11th. An infield and outfield in situation: Schwarber was actually standing on first and Rizzo though listed as playing LF was playing further in. More like deep SS I believe. So really a 5 man infield that Retrosheet doesn't have a convenient way of noting.



https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIL/MIL201704070.shtml

Situation was for one play with no outs recorded. Bases loaded, one out, wild pitch by Mike Montgomery. They moved Schwarber in after Montgomery hit the previous batter to load the bases.
   24. DL from MN Posted: January 09, 2021 at 09:42 PM (#5998741)
the Phillies don't seem to want to compete.


I was assuming the Marlins
   25. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 09, 2021 at 09:53 PM (#5998744)
I was assuming the Marlins

You think the Marlins will be competitive?
   26. The Duke Posted: January 09, 2021 at 10:19 PM (#5998747)
Question. If the Nats exercise the mutual option but schwarber declines then this is a $1/7 deal right ? Otherwise it’s either 1/$10 or 2/$18?
   27. Walt Davis Posted: January 09, 2021 at 11:20 PM (#5998760)
#23: Of course. I was thinking batters faced not innings but of course defensive innings are measured in, surprise, innings.

Somewhat like #26, I can never remember how "mutual" the option is. Is it the Nats decide first then, if they decline, Schwarber gets to decide? Or can the Nats say yes and Schwarber no, then Schwarber walks? Or the Nats say no and Schwarber has no option? I suspect the first one in which case you can either think of the $3 M as the cost of having the right to decide first or that really both are deciding based on a 1/$8 marginal cost, not 1/$11 because the buyout is paid either way.

(Not saying the buyout is paid either way but we've discussed this before and I think it is or at least that's the way they're usually structured. Cot's doesn't have any additional detail (yet), just lists it as a $11 option with $3 buyout.)
   28. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 09, 2021 at 11:43 PM (#5998767)
I believe players still get the buyout even if they decline an option. It’s a bit counter-intuitive to get a buyout when you’re the one declining a higher salary, but that’s how they do it, IIRC.
   29. Walt Davis Posted: January 09, 2021 at 11:48 PM (#5998769)
what irks me is that my beloved Tigers didn’t trade some lottery ticket to the Cubs for Schwarber and pay the $8 million arb number...

Imagine how Nats fans feel. Anyway, we're just guesstimating that he'd have gotten only $8 in arb.

I'm a bit surprised at how much Schwarber "support" there is here. He's a likable guy and worked his butt off to come back from the knee injury and could turn into a very good hitter any day now. But we've never really seen any of that. When he came up, I sorta figured Matt Stairs (125 OPS+ from 28-35 as a platoon hitter) was pretty much a worst-case scenario. I was always worried the defense would be so bad we'd have no place to play him but that hasn't been the case IMO.

But his bat's been so inconsistent to this point. Even the consistent-looking 2018-19 was a big first half in 2018 and a massive 2nd half in 2019. Looks like his best 6 month stretch is 2nd half 2017, first half 2018 which was a long while ago now. (That sort of thing happens all the time, I don't mean to suggest it's a problem but it's not consistent.) And as I mentioned, he really hasn't hit LHP at all.

FWIW, ZiPS projects Schwarber to basically his career slash line, OPS+, etc. and rate him average defensively which comes to 2.4 WAR. ZiPS is not a fan of Grossman, putting him at 1 WAR, a bit more if we equalize playing time. Now given Schwarber has just 4 bWAR over his last 1800+ PA, that's a pretty big difference between zWAR and bWAR. Only about 3 runs of that is defense so it's not that. So I guess it depends a lot on which WAR formula you believe.

I will agree that if fg's 6.2 WAR over the last few years is correct then Schwarber is likely a solid step above Grossman.

(By the way, Schwarber is only turning 28 which is when Stairs finally got a chance so it's not too late to become Matt Stairs.)
   30. Walt Davis Posted: January 10, 2021 at 05:28 PM (#5998860)
This comes from MLBTR:

But the Nationals paid him $10MM for the 2021 season anyway – and that wasn’t shocking either. After all, Schwarber’s batted ball numbers have made him a popular bounce-back candidate among the Statcast crowd, and it’s not hard to see why: His resume includes finishing in the 95th percentile by exit velocity in 2019 and 2020, the 92nd percentile by barrel percentage in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and that 99th percentile mark by hard hit percentage in 2019.

Despite all that though, his on-contact numbers for 2019-20 are a fine but not spectacular 337/715. (the 715 is quite good). His 2019 fair territory split was 357/772 in 2019 while the AL's (to keep pitchers out of it as much as possible) was 347/608. One look at his ISO tells you he's got good power but you've got to get the overall BA up to push him substantially past the 115-120 OPS+ level. Nelson Cruz has K's 25% of the time over 2019-20 but has still hit over 300 both years ... his 2019 fair territory split was 449/932. Kyle's never come anywhere near that sort of thing. (Not many have, and nobody over an extended period. Even so, Cruz has a career 278 BA; add a 250 ISO and a lot of walks to that and you've got a very productive hitter. Schwarber has a career 230 BA.)

The connection between avverage EV, average LA, barrels, hard-hit, etc. and actual producion (even on-contact) is not straightforward.

By the way, "fair territory" is the closest thing at b-r to "on-contact." Foul-outs are few and look random enough that excluding them is probably not a big deal.
   31. Walt Davis Posted: January 11, 2021 at 02:22 AM (#5998929)
I know I'm nerding out on this but what else have I got to distract me? Looking at players with ISOs about the same (or higher) as their BAs but with rather low BAs and good walks turns up some seemingly useful (but not age-adjusted yet) comps for Schwarber. Neeldess to say this is mostly a sillyball or later phenomenon (Rob Deer and Gorman Thomas being a couple of older examples but then a 220 ISO meant a lot more then).

BA then ISO:
Schwarber 230 250
Pederson 230 240
C Pena 232 230
Branyan 232 253
C Davis 233 226
Luplow 233 222
Muncy 236 248
Sanchez 236 266
Reynolds 236 217
B Moss 237 215
Dunn 237 253
Hoskins 239 256
Phelps 239 241
Sam Horn 240 228
Sano 241 255
Thames 241 226

That's not hugely promising. Pena lasted a long time, finished with 26 WAR, 5 WAA but nearly half of that WAR came in two big seasons at 29-30. Branyan played lots of bits of seasons (14 of them) but amassed just 3400 PA (11 WAR, 0 WAA). Chris Davis had two big seasons (12 WAR) and has been replacement overall for the rest (5630 total PA). Adam Dunn might seem a bit promising but nearly all of his career value was compiled by age 25. As a former CF, Pederson probably has at least a bit more defensive value than Kyle.

The best player here is probably Max Muncy (10 WAR, 5 WAA in 1563 PA) but that's partly because he's split time between 2B/3B and 1B (about 0 dWAR). Obviously we can't rule out he's the next Ken Phelps but Phelps' line wouldn't look quite so impressive today. (Rhys Hoskins is an excellent match for Phelps and would be a fine result for Schwarber.) If you're wondering where Matt Stairs is, he had a 262 BA and 215 ISO so didn't make my list.

I and others speculate that he could be the next Ortiz, Cruz, etc. which he might. Through age 27, Ortiz had a 271 BA and a 220 ISO so more promising. He probably does have a better chance of being the next Cruz than the first Cruz did at age 28 but Cruz sort of immediately turned into a guy with a solid BA (274 from ages 27-33). Obviously if Kyle can get the BA into the 260-270 range, without losing much ISO, then he's a heck of a hitter.

So Pena is the most promising among the low BA crowd. He was so borderline through age 27 he actually went back to AAA at 28 for nearly the full season. That was followed by 5 seasons averaging a 132 OPS+, 20 WAR with some help from good to average 1B defense. Obviously that's the guy the Nats are hoping for.

EDIT: I should be kinder to Dunn. He remained a very productive hitter through at least age 30, it was his defense that went off the cliff. (And probably couldn't have gone as far off the cliff as Rfield thinks.)
   32. BillWallace Posted: January 12, 2021 at 02:27 AM (#5999181)
Nats seems like they could easily be a contender this season.
Their projections already seem much better than their record last season and,
They are a stars and scrubs makeup, which makes it easier to improve and,
They have a rich owner and this is a stupid market where all kinds of decent/average players are going to be available cheap.

If they keep buying decent players to fill the ~5 black holes that they have to go along with Soto/Turner/Robles/Scherzer/Stras/Corbin it's a great team.

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