Breaking down the Kyle Schwarber situation
"I loved my time in Boston. I enjoyed it a lot. In the offseason, I didn't hear much after the lockout." - Kyle Schwarber to WEEI.com at the 2022 MLB All-Star Game.
For a second straight October, Kyle Schwarber once again found himself bathing in champagne. And, as Red Sox fans are well aware of, this time around it is not thanks to anything to do with the world of Boston baseball.
Schwarber is headed to the World Series as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
For all of those over 40 years old, it immediately implanted the sound of sportscaster Bob Lobel uttering over and over, "Why can't we get players like that?" For anybody under that demographic the reaction was probably something a bit more cut and dried, such as, "What the (expletive)?!"
The Red Sox Insult to Injury Tour rages on, thanks in large part to the images of Schwarber.
Make no mistake about it, this bandwagon isn't completely full. The way-too-easy narrative regarding Schwarber's existence being overvalued pops up every once in a while. Twenty-million dollars-a-year for a guy who hit .218 in the regular season and represents a sacrifice on defense wherever you put him? Not worth it.
OK. It is the prerogative of those people to be wrong.
Let's start with why Schwarber isn't a Red Sox.
According to multiple major league sources, the Sox offer to Schwarber was in the range of three years, $39 million. He signed with the Phillies for $80 million over four years. Sound familiar? It should. Philadelphia Dave Dombrowski replicated Boston Dave Dombrowski. He identified a free agent that fit what he wanted to do and proceeded to make darn sure he was going to get him.
The Red Sox? They had other ideas.
Chaim Bloom and Co. evidently viewed Schwarber as a $13 million-a-year player who was worth being on the books for just three seasons. That was in large part to how they viewed Bobby Dalbec at first base in the short term - planning to play him there against the vast majority of lefties and righties - and Triston Casas in the longer-term.
J.D. Martinez would be taking up the at-bats at designated hitter, and a priority had been put on outfield defense, leading to acquiring Jackie Bradley Jr. for right field. As for the power Schwarber left behind, that would be made up for by newly-acquired Trevor Story and a developing Dalbec.
Ironically, after seeing how 2022 played out, there couldn't have been a more perfect fit than what Schwarber represented.
It wasn't too long into the season the Red Sox needed help at first base, with Casas still months away from the majors. And on top of the downturn in power from the meat and potatoes of the Sox' order, there was also no answer to the absence of both Schwarber and Hunter Renfroe.
This would have been perfect. Schwarber plays first base. Schwarber plays left field. Schwarber takes over at designated hitter for the next three seasons. Schwarber hits a lot of home runs while driving the bus when it comes to pushing plate discipline. And, to top it off, Schwarber is a clubhouse cornerstone.
Is it all worth four years and $80 million? For what the Red Sox need, is sure seems to come close. (And we haven't even introduced front offices' new favorite stat, "wOBA," which Schwarber finished 16th in the National League in - better than highly-coveted free agent Trea Turner, among others.)
The good news for the Red Sox is that there is a very real lesson to be learned here.
With all this money to spend in the offseason, the Schwarber case represents the reality that lies ahead. When you identify a player that is going to fit what you want to do and that piece is in the open market, sometimes it is OK to get a bit uncomfortable, go above what you think that target's value is and use your financial muscles to secure that player's services.
The Red Sox whiffed on Schwarber. A week after the outfielder finishes playing in the World Series, they will get their chance to not make the same sort of mistake again.