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Kyle Schwarber needs to go to the minor leagues

This is something that could benefit both Kyle and the Cubs.

Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

After the Cubs’ 5-2 loss to the Padres Monday afternoon, Joe Maddon said the team had “tried everything”:

"We've tried everything possible," Maddon said after the offense reached a new low Monday in a 5-2 loss to the meek Padres, the Cubs' fourth consecutive defeat. "Guys have been rested. Guys have been given days off. These are our players. I have all the faith in the world.

"We just came off a 7-2 homestand. Everyone loved us a couple days ago. And now all of a sudden we have had a tough time scoring runs on the road, and we've got to do better."

There’s one thing they haven’t tried, and that’s the subject of this article.

Before I continue, let me say that I stated earlier this year that Kyle Schwarber wouldn’t benefit from time in the minor leagues. I’ll say right here and now that I was wrong.

Though Schwarber is still drawing walks at a decent rate — he ranks tied for 12th in the National League — and is still hitting home runs (four this month), his overall numbers in May are brutal: .133/.244/.333 (10-for-75) with 22 strikeouts. Since he homered May 9 in Colorado, it’s even worse: .104/.218/.229 (5-for-48), and since his last hit (a homer May 23 against the Giants), he’s 0-for-15 with eight strikeouts.

Thus I’ve come to the conclusion that Kyle would benefit from some time at Triple-A Iowa. The reasons for this slump don’t really matter. Every single one of us knows that Kyle Schwarber can be an elite hitter at the big-league level. Whether it’s putting pressure on himself or some other reason, perhaps this can be worked out at the minor-league level.

There is recent precedent for sending established big-league hitters to the minor leagues. In fact, the Cardinals did it just one day ago, shipping Randal Grichuk all the way to High-A Palm Beach to work on his hitting.

Grichuk has been a regular outfielder for the Cardinals for more than two seasons and has over 1,100 major-league plate appearances, more than twice the number Schwarber has. And check out the reasoning of Cardinals GM John Mozeliak for the move:

“When you’re looking at strike zone management, and the ability to put himself in more advantageous counts, that’s what we’re hoping to see,” Mozeliak said. “I don’t think this is a case of Randal not understanding or accepting what he’s being told. I think he’s in a spot where at the major-league level, pressures are high. Making adjustments under pressure can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes you can benefit from hitting the pause button.”

This is exactly the sort of thing that could be good for Schwarber, though I don’t think he needs to go all the way to High-A.

There was another similar high-profile demotion three years ago. On May 20, 2014, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas was hitting .153/.223/.320. He’d been Kansas City’s regular third baseman for two and a half seasons and had over 1,500 career PA at the time of his demotion.

It didn’t last long. Moustakas played just eight games at Triple-A Omaha, and hit .355/.412/.548 (11-for-31) with three doubles and a home run. Returning to Kansas City, he hit .235/.289/.377 with 11 home runs the rest of the year (332 at-bats), not great, but far better than he was hitting when he was sent down. And then he hit five home runs in 52 postseason at-bats that year for the Royals and has continued to be a solid hitter since returning to the big leagues, hitting well this year after missing much of 2016 with injuries.

So here’s my proposal to shake things up a bit for the Cubs: Send Kyle Schwarber to Iowa. Ben Zobrist can play left field, Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr. can split center field and Javier Baez can play second base. Tommy La Stella could be recalled to be on the bench when needed.

Let me add that in no way am I criticizing Schwarber’s work ethic, which is off the charts. He’s just not getting the results he, or any of us, would want, and similar to what’s happened with Grichuk, the pressures of making adjustments at the big-league level certainly aren’t helping him.

As was the case for Moustakas, such a trip for Schwarber wouldn’t have to last long, maybe a week or two.

It could work wonders. The Cubs should do it.


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