The San Diego Padres declined Mitch Moreland’s option but could turn to Kyle Schwarber if the DH is in play in 2021.
While some ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the designated hitter is likely to return in 2021, the unknown has left National League teams in limbo.
The San Diego Padres were a beneficiary of the DH being implemented for the 2020 shortened season, acquiring Mitch Moreland at the trade deadline to fill the role. But with just a $3M club option for next year, the Padres were forced to decline his option until the league makes a formal decision.
But one player who just became available that could be a great fit in San Diego next year is Kyle Schwarber.
The former fourth overall pick in 2014 played a heroic role for the Chicago Cubs during their 2016 World Series title run. The 27-year-old tore his ACL and LCL on a collision with centerfielder Dexter Fowler just days into the 2016 campaign. He returned to post a .500 on-base percentage in the World Series while only serving in a designated hitter role.
Schwarber was one of several players who had down years in the COVID-shortened season. The Cubs won the NL Central Division, but they had scuffling players in Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Schwarber, to name a few. Looking back at Schwarber’s 2019 campaign, he hit 38 home runs to go along with 92 RBI’s and a .871 OPS.
Kyle Schwarber can still be a valuable DH in a lineup. The primary difference between his 2020 and 2019 seasons was a .219 BABIP compared to .276. He logged an above-average hard-hit rate and had a higher walk rate in 2020. Still capable of 2.0-3.0 WAR player #MLB #BaseballViz pic.twitter.com/Iz5QT6rwCZ
— Ryan (@LAK_Ryan) December 4, 2020
He was set to make $7M before the MLB and MLBPA settled on reduced payments across the league. Schwarber’s projected salary nearly doubled from the previous year, but the Padres could be buying at the right time, given how he performed last year.
There’s reason to believe that Schwarber will bounce back in 2021, given that his .219 BABIP and 8.8 average launch angle were well below his career average of .267 BABIP and 14.7-degree launch angle. It will ultimately come down to whether the league implements the DH for the 2021 season and what contract Schwarber’s camp is looking to secure.
Of course, the DH is expected to be one of the hot topics as part of MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, set to expire at the end of the 2021 season. Assuming it’s implemented for the foreseeable future, Schwarber on a multi-year deal makes sense.
The Padres struggled to find production in the DH role, even after the Moreland acquisition. Schwarber spent the bulk of his time in Chicago playing in left field. His -4 OAA is by no means great, but he logged a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 2020. He’s serviceable there when Tommy Pham needs a day off. Pham was recently tendered a contract to return next year.