First, let me be quite clear: Kyle Schwarber is someone any baseball team would be proud to have. He seems to be a great, standup guy, a good teammate, and his work ethic is off the charts. We saw that in how hard he worked in 2016 to be able to come back and be a World Series hero, and he continued that in 2017 as he took a demotion to Triple-A and came back and had an excellent second half.
Having said that, I don’t think there really is a place for him on the Cubs going forward. He’s not going to catch anymore, though he’s said he wants to; management seems to have put that in the past. On some teams he could be a first baseman, but obviously that position with the Cubs is held down for the next several seasons, at the very least. And though he’s shown off a pretty good left-field arm (seven outfield assists in 110 games this year), he’s not really a good outfielder. His best position is almost certainly designated hitter, and the Cubs don’t have that available for him except for the 10 games a year they play in American League parks.
Thus a trade of Schwarber to an A.L. team, where he could DH most days, would seem to be the best for him. It also could bring controllable starting pitching to the Cubs, something they need going forward.
The argument has been made, here and elsewhere, that Schwarber’s value is not as high as it could be because of his overall numbers in 2017: .211/.315/.467. That, however, discounts the fact that after he returned from Triple-A, his performance was excellent: .255/.338/.565, with 18 home runs. That’s in 225 plate appearances, not a small sample size. A .565 slugging percentage over the full 2017 season would have ranked eighth in the National League. Yes, he struck out 75 times, one in every three PA. That, I believe, is just who Schwarber is. He’ll strike out a lot, but also could hit 30+ home runs every year, as he did in 2017. And he’s certainly not the only big-strikeout guy in baseball — strikeouts are at an all-time high.
So I don’t think there’s any value in waiting to trade Schwarber. Scouts have certainly watched him over the second half and know that his hitting is at an All-Star level (.903 OPS).
Where, then, could Schwarber be traded? And who’s available?
There are a number of A.L. teams that are already set at DH. There are others who don’t have the pitching the Cubs would seek.
Which brings us to the Tampa Bay Rays. Cubs fans have lusted after reacquiring Chris Archer for years, almost since he was traded away. Archer’s last two years have not been quite as good as the two before that, but at 29 he’s still one of the better pitchers in the American League.
This couldn’t be done as a one-for-one deal; the Rays would almost certainly ask for more. It would take Schwarber plus a pitching prospect or two. I wouldn’t want to give up Adbert Alzolay, Jose Albertos or Oscar De La Cruz, who are up-and-comers; nor would I want to trade Dillon Maples or Jen-Ho Tseng, who have already pitched for the Cubs and should be in the mix for the 25-man roster next year. What about including someone like Trevor Clifton, whose stock fell last year, or Duane Underwood Jr.?
There’s another way to possibly approach this. What about trading Schwarber for Jake Odorizzi? That might work one-for-one. Odorizzi’s numbers declined a bit in 2017, but he was a 3+ bWAR pitcher in 2015 and 2016, and he had a pretty good second half in 2017 (12 starts, 3.47 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, .176 opponents BA). Odorizzi pitched for Joe Maddon for two years (2013-14), so there’s familiarity with him from Joe, and also with Jim Hickey, should the Cubs decide to hire him as pitching coach.
There’s one more good reason to deal Schwarber, and that would be to break a logjam in the Cubs infield and outfield. Ian Happ has played all three outfield positions and second base. He seems best suited to left field. Trading Schwarber would mean that Happ could become the fulltime left fielder, with Albert Almora Jr. playing mostly fulltime in center field and Javier Baez at second base. This would move Ben Zobrist back to “super-utility,” backing up several positions. The Cubs would need another backup outfielder; I’d suggest re-signing Jon Jay for the role he performed in 2017. In this scenario, with Baez as the fulltime second baseman, they’d need a backup infielder who can play shortstop. A player like this who is a free agent is Alexi Amarista — he doesn’t hit much, but can play all over the field. (That’s just an example, not specifically that player, though he’d probably be a good and cheap backup. The Rockies have a team option on him for 2018, but they seem unlikely to pick it up.)
The Cubs need starting pitching. Kyle Schwarber, as fine a man and player as he is, doesn’t really fit on a National League team. The time to trade him, I believe, is now. These are just ideas; I’m sure you have yours, so have at it.
The Cubs should trade Kyle Schwarber...
This poll is closed
Yes, but not till sometime during the 2018 season