New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has been enamored with Kyle Schwarber since he burst onto the Major League Baseball scene, and has asked if the Cubs were trading him nearly every season since his debut. To be fair, it’s hard for any baseball aficionado not to love Schwarber.
The 6’0’’, 235-pound veteran debuted in 2015 and slugged 16 HRs in 69 games. then missed nearly all of the 2016 regular season only to become a postseason legend. Despite being a key member during the Cubbies 2016 World Series run, Schwarber and the Cubs parted ways this past Wednesday. The North Siders refused to tender a contract to the former Home Run Derby participant after Schwarber batted just .188 in the shortened 2020 season.
Enter the New York Yankees. Historically, they have been known for their left-handed bats. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Don Mattingly were some of the greatest left-handed bats to grace original Yankee Stadium. In the 21st century, Jason Giambi, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Canó were some of the more memorable hitters to set their eyes on Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. However, the Yankees have not had a left-handed hitter to hit 30 HRs since Canó and Granderson each hit more than 30 big flys back in 2013. Nevertheless, Schwarber could be the slugger to end the Yankees’ left-handed hitting power drought.
Schwarber and Yankees’ hitter-friendly ballpark would be a match made in heaven. Schwarber already has two 30+ homer seasons in his six-year career, which includes a 60-game 2020 season and completely missing the 2016 regular season. Looking at Baseball Savant’s spray chart tool, Schwarber would have added about six home runs in 2020, and another six home runs in 2019 if he played all his games at Yankee Stadium. As a result, Schwarber would have had around 17 homers in 2020, and 44 homers in 2019 respectively. Thus, Schwarber has a legitimate chance to hit 30+ homers in 2021.
As fun as it would be to see Schwarber in pinstripes, his presence would cause a conundrum for Cashman. The main reason why Schwarber does not seem to fit on the Yankees is he does not have an available position to play. Schwarber represents the perfect designated hitter archetype; someone who can slug home runs, but cannot field his position well. Schwarber has -6 DRS and -1.7 UZR over the past two seasons in left field. Unfortunately, Giancarlo Stanton is the de facto DH, and would only play left field occasionally to give Luke Voit, Gary Sanchez, or Mike Ford with the occasional half-day off.
Additionally, if Schwarber started in left field, the Yankees would need to make some roster changes. Namely, the Yankees would have to trade Clint Frazier. As mentioned in a previous article, Frazier has proved to be too valuable for the Yankees to be a bench player, and despite the Yankees’ injury woes the past few years, simply adding another outfielder to the team is not the best idea. Thus, Frazier needs to either be the starting left fielder, or traded elsewhere, The latter could be very helpful to the Yankees as Frazier’s stock is very high right now, especially since he was nominated for a Gold Glove despite being a horrendous fielder before 2020. Therefore, trading Frazier could net the Yankees a great package in return.
In theory, the Yankees cannot go wrong with either Frazier or Schwarber in left field; Schwarber provides more power and throughout his career has produced more as a hitter, but Frazier surpasses Schwarber in speed, defense, and making better contact. If the Yankees want to play their left field situation safe, they could stick with their longtime prospect in Frazier, or even try to sign the reliable Michael Brantley. On the other hand, acquiring Schwarber would allow the Yankees to trade Frazier and receive the impact reliever or starter they need and would have a left-handed power bat in the middle of the lineup. At the end of the day, championships are built on risks and the potential of Schwarber plus another up-and-coming starter or reliever is too good of an option for the Yankees to pass up. Therefore, the Yankees should take the necessary risk to improve their team and sign Kyle Schwarber.
UZR and DRS: Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved are both statistics from Fangraphs that measure fielding. If a fielder’s UZR or DRS is above 0, the fielder is above average. Having a UZR or DRS equal to 0 means the fielder is average, and less than 0 means the fielder is below average.
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