CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies got the big bat they needed in left field.
The Phillies on Sunday announced their four-year deal with Kyle Schwarber, which is worth $79 million, according to a source.
“He’s a proven winner,” Bryce Harper said before the team’s workout at BayCare Ballpark. “Everywhere he’s gone, he’s done a really good job. It just gives us a huge opportunity to fill that void in left field, and it gives us a huge opportunity to get that much better.”
Harper made it clear on Monday that the Philadelphia needed to get somebody in left field. He specifically mentioned Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos and Schwarber. Harper felt so strongly about the three that he spoke on Tuesday night with Phillies managing partner John Middleton and other club officials about them.
Bryant ended up signing with the Rockies, but it was the Phillies who struck deals with Castellanos (per a source) and Schwarber. And Schwarber was the Phillies’ preference from the start. They made an offer to him before the lockout in December, and they thought they had a chance to sign him then. The final terms of the deal came together relatively quickly on Tuesday night.
“I was just letting them know kind of how I felt and things like that,” Harper said. “We talked about the three players that I had mentioned. That was about it.
“I think seeing that the Braves are getting a lot better, seeing that the Mets are getting a lot better, we have to stay up on that. This clubhouse, we’re here to win. I know that the fans want to build a winning team, and this organization wants to be a winning team. Being able to add somebody like that is going to help us that much more. Hopefully, we’re not done and we can go out and get another guy and see where we go from there.”
Schwarber, 29, batted a combined .266 with 32 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .928 OPS in 113 games last season with the Nationals and Red Sox. He fits the mold of a middle-of-the-lineup bat, but the Phillies do not have a leadoff hitter and Schwarber thrived in the role last season. He hit 17 homers with a .385 on-base percentage and a 1.216 OPS in 27 games hitting first.
Before he got hurt in July, Schwarber tied the AL/NL records for home runs over spans of two games (five), 10 games (12) and 18 games (16). The only players to match his run from June 12-29 were Barry Bonds in 2001 and Sammy Sosa in 1998.
“What he did in that stretch with the Nationals was really impressive,” Harper said. “I think anywhere he hits in the lineup, he’s going to help us. Just the dynamics of his game, he’s going to help us a lot. I think he’s going to thrive in our ballpark as well. He’s got strength from left-field foul pole to right-field foul pole.”
Defensively, Schwarber has -35 outs above average in the outfield since 2016, which is fourth worst in the Majors, although it might not be as much of an issue with the DH coming to the National League this year.
But Schwarber is not coming to Philadelphia for his glove. He is coming to hit homers and show the Phillies how to win. He is regarded as a tremendous person and clubhouse presence. He has postseason experience with 121 plate appearances in 35 career playoff games. He helped the Cubs win the 2016 World Series.
Those who know Schwarber believe he will fit in perfectly in Philadelphia.
“Anything that’s going to help us win at this point that’s going to make us better,” Harper said. “Just like the Mets are getting better and the Braves are getting better. Anybody who really helps us from pitching to defense to hitting. Whatever [president of baseball operations] Dave Dombrowski thinks is best for us, then that’s what’s going to happen.”