Nationals Sign Kyle Schwarber to One-Year, $10M Deal

So much for the slim hope that Kyle Schwarber could return to the Cubs on a reduced deal. The slugger, who was non-tendered in December, has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal pending a physical. He will earn $10 million, more than he was expected to command via arbitration.

The Nats have been looking to add a little thunder to their lineup and Schwarber certainly fits the bill in that regard. More specifically, the left-handed hitter should improve their performance against righty pitchers after a season in which the Nats finished 19th in MLB with a wRC+ of 97. Schwarber has a 123 wRC+ and has hit 107 of his 121 career homers against righties.

Taken by the Cubs with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Schwarber debuted just over a year later. It was supposed to have been just a DH stint between stops at Double-A and Triple-A as the Cubs made an AL road swing, but Schwarber raked and forced the team’s hand to an extent. He did end up heading to Iowa for less than a month before returning in July to help fuel an improbable run to the NLCS.

Schwarber laid the foundation for his legend by hitting five home runs during the 2015 postseason, an all-time franchise record. Not for one season, ever. But it wasn’t just the number of dingers, it was the meaning and the majesty. He stole Gerrit Cole‘s soul by launching a ball into the Allegheny during the Wild Card game, then deposited a Kevin Siegrist offering atop the videoboard in right as the Cubs overcame the Cardinals.

The legend was cemented the following season, when he returned from a catastrophic knee injury to DH in the World Series. Schwarber infamously yelled at then-teammate David Ross to do something that ran counter to Joe Maddon‘s “try not to suck” advice after an RBI single in Game 2. It didn’t even take strong lip-reading skills to see what he was saying, particularly when they showed it several times.

Schwarber also hit the single that led to Albert Almora Jr.‘s big tag-up, a play that may have led to Ross believing Almora was an ideal pinch runner in every available situation. Alanis Morissette probably thinks it’s ironic that both Schwarber and Almora — two of Theo Epstein’s first three Cubs draft picks — were both non-tendered this winter. In reality, it feels like an unfortunate commentary on the organization’s financial decisions and failure to properly develop players at the highest level.

It’s honestly pretty messed up that the Cubs chose to let Schwarber leave for nothing rather than pay him less than what the Nationals ended up offering. More than just the money, there’s the notion that they had to non-tender him because there was no market. So whether the Cubs just got bluffed or it was simply a matter of having to make a hasty decision based on money, maybe a combo of both, this doesn’t look great.

Update: Schwarber’s deal will pay him just $7 million this season and has an $11 million option for 2022 that carries a $3 million buyout, making the Cubs’ decision even more confusing. The $10 million burden on the luxury tax payroll means nothing because they’re not getting anywhere near the threshold, so getting him for only $7 million in actual payroll this year is the real key. Oh well.

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