The Milwaukee Brewers were dismal on the offensive side of the ball in 2020. There is a strong likelihood that some or most of the players that struggled at the plate for the Brew Crew will rebound in 2021. However, one thing that was glaringly missing from the 2020 lineup was a hitter that opposing teams would truly fear who is not named Christian Yelich.
There was not much to fear from Schwarber in 2020. As with many MLB hitters, Schwarber struggled mightily, posting an awful slash line of .188/.308/.393. Based on those numbers, poor to mediocre defensive metrics, and an increasing arbitration salary, the Chicago Cubs chose to not tender him a contract and let him walk into free agency. If the Brewers were to sign Schwarber, Milwaukee could be getting both a really good hitter as well as acquiring a player motivated to show his former team that they made a big mistake.
While 2020 was forgettable for the soon-to-be 28 year old slugger, 2019 was not. Schwarber blasted 38 home runs in that season while slashing .250/.339/.531. He had a wRC+ of 120, and he posted some of the best hard hit numbers in baseball while walking a lot.
Every season leading up to it demonstrated that 2019 was what was to come. He crushed the ball as a 23 year old rookie in 2015, blasting 16 home runs in 273 plate appearances. Coming back from injury, he was stunning in the 2016 World Series. In 2017 and 2018, Schwarber posted a wRC+ of 103 and 115 respectively, while continuing to hit for power from the left side of the plate.
AmFam Field is as friendly a ballpark as any in baseball to left handed hitters. At least that is what everyone says. Whether it is or isn’t, imagine what Schwarber could do in this Brewers’ lineup hitting somewhere behind Christian Yelich.
What gives most people pause is Schwarber’s struggles with the glove. He consistently ranks in the 2nd to 4th percentile in outs above replacement year-over-year. That acknowledged, his DRS numbers are not really that bad. Generally he is -3 DRS per year. While not good, it is not atrocious. Plus he has a pretty good arm.
Nonetheless, you are not bringing in Schwarber for his defense, and there is also a good chance that the DH will remain in the National League. That makes Schwarber an even more valuable asset to the Brewers.
Yet even with uncertainty around whether there will be a DH or not in the National League in 2021, it is still a solid gamble to bet on Schwarber. There is one player in this year’s group of free agents that is in his prime, probably valued well below his actual value in the marketplace, still an good-to-elite hitter, creates an aura of excitement whenever at the plate, and grants Milwaukee the chance to stick it to the Cubs. His name is Kyle Schwarber.
George Springer, D.J. LeMahieu, Justin Turner, and J.T. Realmuto capture the free agent headlines. Unfortunately they are likely out of the Brewers’ price range. Schwarber might just be feasible for the Brewers however, and he also might be the most dangerous hitter in this free agent class. I don’t often do this, but if there is one potential signing that I would be most excited about in this free agent class, it would be the signing of Kyle Schwarber, because his combination of hit tool, power, and on-base capability is really hard to find. And did I mention he is just 28?
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant