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Kyle Schwarber Declines His Mutual Option and is a Free Agent – Says He Didn’t Get “Screwed” By the Cubs

Chicago Cubs

As expected, Kyle Schwarber has declined his half of the mutual option that came on his Nationals deal (now with the Red Sox), and he’s officially a free agent. Unlike last year, when the Cubs non-tendered him after a down pandemic season (and a dang budget crunch), and he worked to find a one-year deal that approximated what he would’ve gotten from the Cubs, this time Schwarber is going to be able to seek out a sizable multi-year deal. Good for him.

I don’t see it likely coming from the Cubs, not because I can’t shoehorn in a fit, and not because the bridge is completely burned. Instead, I feel like the combination of his enormous 2021 season (.266/.374/.554, 145 wRC+), his age (29 in March), his lack of a Qualifying Offer (ineligible to receive one), and the coming DH in the NL are going to make his price tag really, really substantial. And I think the closeness the Cubs have with his history – despite knowing him better than any other team, they decided to let him go for nothing – is going to combine with the price tag to leave them unwilling to take on the risk that 2021 was the peak/an aberration. It’s just a feeling I have. I could be wrong. But I don’t expect the Cubs to be big in on Schwarber.

Not that he wouldn’t be open to a reunion. Schwarber has previously said all the right things about being open to coming back to the Cubs – why would you close off part of your market? – and just this week he explained that there are no bad feelings about what went down last year.

When asked about getting “screwed” by the Cubs last year, Schwarber told Waddle & Silvy on ESPN 1000 that he didn’t see it that way.

“One, I didn’t get screwed,” Schwarber said. “I’ll be the first to admit it: I sucked last year. I underperformed. There’s no excuse to that, just because it’s 60 games; I still underperformed …. Going into this year, [I] was just trying to go out there and … prove to other people that you’re the that you know you are in a full season.”

Schwarber’s right, of course. He arguably did better financially by signing with the Nationals for what amounted to a one-year, $10 million deal (he might’ve gotten slightly less than that in arbitration with the Cubs). Then he obviously was in a good situation in Washington to break out (who knows if that happens with the Cubs), plus a midseason trade that decoupled him from possible draft pick compensation. The midseason hamstring injury was a bummer, yes, but overall, Schwarber couldn’t have had things play out much better for him over the last 12 months.

That all started with the Cubs turning him loose into free agency, so yeah, he didn’t get screwed. If anything, the Cubs screwed themselves.

Now we find out what kind of market there is for Kyle Schwarber’s services. Bat-only guys tend not to top $50 million total too often, with JD Martinez’s $110 million deal with Boston being an extreme outlier (and coming off four straight huge offensive seasons). But Schwarber *can* play a corner outfield spot, and maybe even a little first base now. And bat-only guys are about to see the market for their services effectively double. I don’t think it would be crazy to see him get something in the four-year, $15-20 million range. He might get even more from a team that believes his breakout was tied, specifically, to the sticky stuff enforcement (he used to get beat at the top of the zone by high-spin four-seamers quite a bit, if I remember correctly, and he was hammering that stuff this year during his hot streak).

Heck, Schwarber might use Nick Castellanos’s deal with the Reds (4/$64M, two opt outs) as a comp, though Castellanos was a bit younger, and had been improving defensively at the time of the deal (he was a recent outfield convert). Kinda funny, considering the Cubs connection there, and also the fact that Castellanos is, himself, hitting the market again this offseason. I like Castellanos’s bat overall a good bit better than Schwarber’s (less upside, but also less risk), but it’s not like I’d be mad if rumors about Schwarber and the Cubs started popping up! (I just don’t expect it right now.)



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.