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Here's why Schwarbs makes sense for Yanks

@MikeLupica
December 5, 2020

The Yankees ought to go hard after Kyle Schwarber, who would not just give them a left-handed bat they need and who is not just made for the short right-field wall at Yankee Stadium, but who is made for the Stadium, period. Schwarbs, the nickname the outfielder once picked for

The Yankees ought to go hard after Kyle Schwarber, who would not just give them a left-handed bat they need and who is not just made for the short right-field wall at Yankee Stadium, but who is made for the Stadium, period.

Schwarbs, the nickname the outfielder once picked for himself on Players Weekend, would not just make the Yanks' offense better. The former high school linebacker, one built like a beer keg, would make them a lot more fun to watch just by showing up.

The Yankees have right-handed hitters up and down their lineup. Their big home run guys -- Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton -- are right-handed hitters. But it once seemed like a rule that the Yankees would always have a big left-handed home run bat at either the old Yankee Stadium or the new one. Schwarber -- even coming off a shortened season in which he hit just .188 to go with 11 home runs -- is that guy, and he is available. And the Yankees should jump on him before somebody else does.

7 strong landing spots for Kyle Schwarber

I know, I know. The Yankees just brought back catcher Gary Sánchez, who is just a few months older than Schwarber (Sánchez turned 28 this past week, Schwarber turns 28 in March) and who hit just .147 last season against his 10 home runs. The only Yankee to hit more home runs than Sánchez did last season was Luke Voit. But Schwarber hit a combined total of 64 homers the two seasons before that.

And here's an even more important stat, at a time when the Yankees have struggled to keep a healthy lineup: Schwarber played 59 out of the Cubs’ 60 regular-season games last season. You know how many games (combined) that Judge and Stanton played? Fifty-one. If there had been a full 162-game schedule in 2020, Judge -- who missed 110 games in the previous two seasons -- might have missed 100 more because of a stress fracture in his right rib.

There's no doubt that the Yankees have a lot of outfielders. But how can you not believe, off of what we’ve seen in the past two years with an IR at Yankee Stadium that sometimes looks like a crowded No. 4 subway train on a game day, that manager Aaron Boone wouldn’t be able to find enough at-bats for Schwarber?

It’s also not as if Schwarber would blow a hole in the Yankees’ payroll. He was arbitration eligible with the Cubs, who decided not to tender him a contract and he was looking at a deal in the $8 or $9 million range. And Jed Hoyer, running the Cubs now that Theo Epstein is gone, hasn’t ruled out trying to bring Schwarber back to Wrigley Field at a lower number.

“We’ll definitely keep the door open,” Hoyer said recently. “We’ll continue to talk about ways to bring him back. ... He’s a Cubs legend. No question about that.”

Schwarber imprinted himself as a Cubs legend in the Fall of 2016 on the North Side of Chicago, when the Cubs finally saw the end of a 108-year wait for a World Series title. This was a season in which Schwarber tore ligaments in his left knee in the third game of the season and was supposed to be gone for the year. He sure was not.

His leg was just strong enough for him to play in the Fall Classic against the Indians. That World Series, memorably, went seven games. Schwarber played in five of them. He hit .412, with seven hits, two runs, an on-base percentage of .500 and an OPS of .971. You know who could have used somebody like him last October? The Yankees, who lost the American League Division Series in five games to the Rays. Tampa Bay pounded them with big right arms in that final game, and the Yankees got just three hits on the way to ultimately losing their season. The two significant left-handed bats in the batting order that night were switch-hitter Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner.

And in 2015, a year in which the Cubs ended up losing to the Mets in the National League Championship Series, Schwarber hit five home runs in nine postseason games. He didn’t hit in the Cubs’ NL Wild Card Series against the Marlins this October, in which his team got swept. But nobody hit for the Cubs in that series.

Now that Epstein is gone, Hoyer is in charge and Schwarber is available. At a time when so many Yankees have a hard time getting on the field, Schwarber shows up. In his last full season (2019) at Wrigley, he hit 38 home runs for the Cubs and knocked in 92, and was as much of a fan favorite there as anybody they had. You could understand why just by reading the tweet he sent out this week:

“Chicago ... From being drafted, to playoffs 5 out of 6 years, to being a World Series champion! I want to thank all the fans for the overwhelming support these past 7 years of being in the organization. It never got old running out to left and being able to give you guys a salute. It really is different at Wrigley.”

Schwarber would make things look different for the Yankees, as a designated hitter or in the outfield (where his defense has improved over time). Schwarbs would help a lot of teams, no doubt, the way he helped the Cubs finally win it all on the North Side. But they would love him on the North Side of 161st St. in the Bronx.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.