Schwarber the impact bat Red Sox sought

Lefty slugger will help balance Boston's lineup when he returns from injury

July 30th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox made their big trade for the stretch run late Thursday night when they acquired ’s power lefty bat in a deal with the Nationals.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom used Friday’s Trade Deadline day to make a couple of smaller moves, adding righty reliever from the Twins and lefty reliever from the Pirates.

The Red Sox expect that adding Schwarber -- who is likely 10 to 14 days away from playing as he recovers from a right hamstring strain suffered on July 3 -- will have a substantial impact on their chances to win the American League East and perhaps play deep into October. Boston (63-41) entered Friday's game against the Rays leading them by 1 1/2 games in the division.

Adding a left-handed bat was priority No. 1 for the Red Sox this week.

“Simply put, we think Kyle Schwarber is one of the most impactful hitters that changed hands this week,” said Bloom. “We had identified going into this week that a left-handed bat was going to be a target of ours and a huge addition to our lineup. We already feel we have a really good lineup. Kyle, once he’s healthy, has a chance to be as productive as anybody in the lineup, and we’re really excited for what he’s going to mean beyond what he produces on the field.”

Anthony Rizzo was perceived as the top bat the Red Sox targeted, due not only to his lefty bat but the fact that he plays first base.

The Yankees ended up trading their Nos. 9 and 12 prospects to beat the Red Sox to Rizzo.

Boston countered by getting a comparable and perhaps even better bat -- albeit one who isn’t as good a fit defensively -- for the cost of their No. 19 prospect, Aldo Ramirez.

“Yeah, in a perfect world we would have been able to get someone with Kyle’s impact who also has a lot of first base experience -- [Schwarber] doesn’t,” said Bloom. “We are going to take a look at him over there. He's excited to do it. This is someone I would not bet against to really do anything he sets his mind to on a baseball field.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora is intrigued by the idea of rotating Schwarber between first base, left field and DH.

“Obviously we can do a few things with him. I know everybody’s talking about first base only, but when healthy, we can move him around, we can use other guys in certain spots and also we can protect other guys against certain pitchers,” said Cora. “I think we’re a more complete team now that we have him, and obviously we’re not healthy yet.”

With Schwarber, Marwin Gonzalez and Christian Arroyo all expected back from the injured list in the coming weeks, the Red Sox should have a deep allotment of position players for the stretch run to surround stars Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez.

“I think we got better,” said Cora. “I think with Kyle, obviously it’s a big bat, but also we added versatility. That’s very important to what we’re trying to accomplish, knowing that we’re going to get healthy in the upcoming days and there’s certain guys, they’re going to contribute to what we’re trying to accomplish. I really like it. I think offensively, we got better.”

In 72 games for the Nats this season, Schwarber slashed .253/.340/.570 with 25 homers and 53 RBIs. He will be a free agent after the season.

If Schwarber can acclimate to first base, it could be vital given the struggles that right-handed-hitting slugger Bobby Dalbec has gone through in his rookie season.

“This is a guy who blew out his knee and hit .400 in the World Series in the same year, so I wouldn’t bet against him,” said Bloom. “But even if that doesn’t come to pass, we think the impact of the bat is huge. There’s going to be a lot of ways for him to help us. It’s going to allow us to feature a much stronger lineup, especially against right-handed pitching.”

The key -- more than where Schwarber will play in the field -- is how much he should help the Red Sox offensively.

The tear Schwarber went on from June 12-29 was ridiculous. In that 69 at-bat stretch, he carried the Nats, slashing .348/.403/1.043 with 16 homers and 27 RBIs.

From June 19-29, Schwarber tied the Major League record for most homers in a 10-game span (12), also setting the all-time record for most home runs as a leadoff hitter in a calendar month (15).

“Today we showed the group all those home runs he hit in three days. It seemed like he hit 15 home runs,” said Cora. “So, they’re excited. Raffy works out with him in the offseason, too, so that’s good. They get together in Tampa and toward the end of the offseason, and they get along well. I told Raffy, man, ‘That’s how much pull you have now. They bring your friends to rake with you.’”

“This guy, he’s done it before. The fact he controls the strike zone too is very important for us. It’s another quality at-bat, and we’re looking forward to see him produce for our lineup.”

A first-round pick of the Cubs in 2014, Schwarber has played in 623 games, hitting .233 with 146 homers and an .828 OPS.

Schwarber gives the Red Sox yet another player with World Series-winning experience.

“If we get where we’re trying to go, it’s a weapon that we can really leverage in very important games at the end,” said Bloom.