In many years when a designated hitter type was needed, especially one who bats from the left side of the plate, Kyle Schwarber is a name the Yankees might have set their sights on.
These days and for the foreseeable future, the bulk of the designated hitter at-bats are for Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton’s presence and the mammoth contract is why as much as the Yankees may like Schwarber, any interest they had for him was merely under the category of due diligence.
Schwarber was among the more names of players to be non-tendered on Dec. 2 and Saturday signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Nationals.
On Saturday, Schwarber said the interest by the Yankees was merely the routine stuff of checking in which teams often do early in the free-agent process with any player there is remote interest in. The follow-up to the initial check-in varies among the interest level and increases in intensity such as when the Yankees courted Gerrit Cole and finally signed him in Dec. 2019.
“I guess there was some interest there, there were some talks there early on, just checking in, things like that, seeing where I was at,” he said during his initial Zoom press conference when discussing the Yankees. “Obviously, the Yankees are the Yankees and it would have been entertaining to hear what could have happened there and see if something could have happened. But it didn’t, and I’m really happy where I’m at.”
Schwarber batted .188 with 11 homers in 191 at-bats in 59 games last season, so the durability is not an issue and he missed all but one game while being paid about $2.6 million prorated of a $7 million salary. In 2019, he was a .250 hitter with 38 homers and 92 RBIs, so it’s possible the 2020 numbers are an aberration.
Stanton appeared in 23 games last season and hit four homers and 11 RBI. The postseason version was even better as Stanton batted .308 with six homers and 13 RBI, giving the Yankees a taste of what he did in 2018 when he missed four games and hit 38 homers to go with 100 RBIs.
The unlikely pairing of Schwarber and the Yankees was essentially confirmed last month during an appearance by Brian Cashman on WFAN. At that point, Cashman described Schwarber as a “fantastic hitter” but not a fit for the lineup due to Stanton’s presence and essentially his need to strictly be a designated hitter.
“He’s a threat at the plate, plate discipline with power,” Cashman said last month. Clearly we would expect him to do damage at Yankee Stadium where he’s in an opposing uniform or our uniform. But I’d say it’s a safer bet to play Giancarlo Stanton remaining mostly in the DH role just because of the health history.”
Another factor is the financial ramifications, adding Schwarber at the salary the Nationals are getting him pushes him the payroll over $180 million and that is before factoring in any raises awarded to players in arbitration and that is before the Yankees re-sign DJ LeMahieu, assuming they actually retain their most consistent player from the past two seasons.
There still is a need for some left-handed at-bats by the Yankees, whose totals in that area in the past three seasons are 514, 1,575, 1,997. A bulk of those at-bats were by Brett Gardner, who still remains a free agent.
Gardner said he did not want his final at-bats as a Yankee to be in stadiums without crowds and who could blame him. And even the front office putting aside sentiment of Gardner being the longest-tenured Yankee last season, it seems likely this will be the option.
Assuming Gardner returns to either a platoon with improved fielder Clint Frazier or starts consistently, that makes Schwarber even more of a redundancy for the Yankees.
It just was not feasible due to the redundancy of Schwarber, a power-hitter who essentially does the same thing as Stanton. Stanton is being significantly more to do some of the same things and putting aside the recent array of injuries possesses the better track record just not the World Series ring Schwarber has.