Could the Philadelphia Phillies pry Kyle Schwarber away from the Boston Red Sox?
Red Sox slugger Kyle Schwarber has a mutual option for 2022, but the MLB hot stove is whispering that the power hitter could be headed for Philadelphia.
The outfielder-turned-first baseman has been open about his love for his new team, with whom he seems to be a perfect fit, but the Phillies might have an edge thanks to new hitting coach, Kevin Long, who worked with Schwarber during their time with the Washington Nationals.
According to MLB insider Jon Heyman, the Long factor coupled with the possibility of the Universal DH will put Schwarber in red pinstripes next season:
"“Kevin Long helped [Schwarber] improve his swing and he really took off as a member of the Nats and he continued that as a member of the Red Sox. I’m gonna say — now that Kevin Long is the hitting coach of the Phillies — that Schwarber winds up with the Phillies. And again, we’re looking at the possibility of the universal DH, so there could be room for [Rhys] Hoskins and Schwarber in Philly.”"
Schwarber was acquired by Boston at the trade deadline after signing a one-year deal with the Nats ahead of last season. He had been non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs, who had drafted him fourth overall in the first round of the 2014 June draft, and with whom he played the first six years of his career.
Big mistake by the Cubs, as Schwarber hit 32 home runs – second-most in a season in his career – in 113 games between the two clubs in the 2021 regular season, including 16 home runs in 27 games in June.
Schwarber set new career-bests in batting average, on-base and slugging percentages, OPS, and OPS+. He struck out less than he had in each of the three seasons prior to the pandemic and only chased 23.3% of pitches outside of the strike zone, a new career-best and sign of improved plate discipline.
The Sox already had a pretty solid outfield when they traded for Schwarber, so they used him as a first-baseman, left-fielder, and designated hitter throughout 41 regular-season games. He had only played one game at first base in his career, back in 2017 with the Chicago Cubs.
With such impressive numbers, it’s likely that Schwarber will decline his side of the mutual option, take the $3 million buyout on his deal, and listen to offers from interested teams. But Schwarber was a perfect fit for Boston in many ways, and he said he’s more than open to staying with the Sox:
"“It’d be pretty stupid not to think about [returning],” said Schwarber. “My team here has been unbelievable. … If they feel like they would like to talk about [a new deal], I’d be all ears. I just think it would be stupid to ‘X’ someone off for no reason. Especially for a place like this, I’d be all ears.”"
The hard-hitting Schwarber would be a solid replacement for fellow outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who had a strong offensive year but struggled defensively. Schwarber is only 28 years old, and reuniting with Long would ensure continued consistency, even improvement at the plate.
Schwarber would also be a great weapon against the rival New York Mets. In 10 games against them in 2021, he hit .395/.452/1.158 with a 1.610 OPS, two doubles, nine home runs, and 15 RBI.
As the Phillies’ new hitting coach, Long will have his hands full fixing third baseman and 2020 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, Alec Bohm, who had one of the worst sophomore slumps in recent history.
But regardless of where Schwarber ends up, his 2021 season is quite a ringing endorsement of Long’s coaching ability.