Schwarber, Nationals agree to one-year deal

January 9th, 2021

When the Nationals entered this offseason, one of the biggest holes in their roster was a starting vacancy in the outfield. They helped address that need on Saturday, when the team announced a one-year agreement with former Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber.

Terms were not disclosed, but a source told’s Mark Feinsand that the deal was worth $10 million.

“I told Rizz [Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo] when we talked on the phone, I said, ‘I'm not approaching this as a one-year deal,’” Schwarber said on his introductory Zoom call. “‘I'm going to come in, I’m going to give you everything I have, and I'm going to play as if I've been here five years and still got a couple more years left. I'm going to give you everything I've got, I'm going to invest myself into winning and that's what I want to do here.'”

Schwarber was non-tendered by the Cubs this offseason after six seasons with the club. When he became a free agent, being reunited with Nationals manager Dave Martinez -- who previously worked on Chicago’s coaching staff -- was a draw. He described Washington as his “No. 1 choice.”

“Davey was a huge influence on me in baseball,” Schwarber said. “I think this is the perfect fit. I’m excited to be here, and I’m excited to be playing for Davey.”

Schwarber adds power around Juan Soto -- whom Schwarber called “the best hitter in the game" -- in the lineup, which the Nationals have now addressed twice this offseason. They added first baseman Josh Bell via trade in late December.

“Our plans going forward are to get the best bat we can,” Rizzo said last month. “The perfect fit would be at first base or one of the corner outfielders.”

In 2020, his age-27 season, Schwarber hit 11 home runs in 59 games, but he batted just .188. He will look to return to his '19 form; that season, he slashed .250/.339/.531 with an .871 OPS and a team-high 38 homers.

Schwarber pointed to needing to “get back into my legs,” and he already has had talks with Nats hitting coach Kevin Long.

“Coming off of '19, it was a great year for me, and then 2020 wasn't the best,” Schwarber said. “But I'm going to learn from that, and coming into 2021, I want to make those adjustments that I need to make and I'm going to come in fully ready to go. A little chip on the shoulder here, ready to come in and win another World Series with these guys.”

With National League teams working under the assumption that there will not be a universal designated hitter in 2021, Schwarber would defend at his normal position of left field. He has played 461 of his 551 career games there, where he has a cumulative fielding percentage of .981. Schwarber has minus-29 outs above average in left field since '17, the second-fewest at the position behind only Matt Kemp (minus-32).

“I view myself as a good outfielder,” Schwarber said. “I don’t care if it’s our Cy Young or if we’re getting blown out in the eighth inning -- I’m going to go out there and I’m still going to play at 110 percent and try to make every play that I can.

“I’ve improved a lot since 2015. I think I’ve become definitely an above-average defender. I know the numbers don’t say that about me, but you know what, I think that I’ve made a lot of improvement on definitely the throwing side of the game -- being able to keep guys from advancing to second base there on some borderline doubles, definitely getting a lot more baseballs that I need to get to. I’m excited about coming out there, playing left field every day for these guys and playing a good, solid defense.”

So what does that mean for Soto, who was a Gold Glove finalist in left field in 2019? He provides the Nats roster with flexibility, thanks to his defensive versatility. Though Soto had become the everyday left fielder, he began his Minor League career in right, and Martinez gave him a look there for the final six games last season.

“[Soto] feels comfortable over there [in right field],” Martinez said last month. “I had conversations with him after we did that. He likes it, he loves it over there, he wants to stay there. I feel comfortable leaving him there. But he said he’s willing to do anything to help this team win. If we got another outfielder that played right field, he’d go back to left field. He’s open to do whatever we need him to do.”

The Nats had a hole in their starting outfield after they declined their team option on Adam Eaton, who signed with the White Sox.