Schwarber, 27, became a free agent in early December after he was non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs. He was selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and played six seasons in Chicago. But the Cubs set out to save money this winter, and did so by parting with a pair of their franchise players. That put Schwarber on the open market and sparked the Nationals’ interest.
In December, General Manager Mike Rizzo pointed to first base and the corner outfield spots as ways to improve a sagging offense. He checked one box — first base — by trading for Josh Bell on Christmas Eve. Then he checked a second — corner outfield — by inking Schwarber on a low-risk, short-term deal that beefs up the middle of Washington’s order.
Schwarber had a slow 2020, striking out 66 times in 59 games, finishing with a .701 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. When right, though, he hits homers at a high rate and lives with a low batting average. Schwarber hit 38 homers and had an .871 OPS in 2019, his last full season. That’s the bat Washington is hoping to see come spring.
It is expected that Schwarber will play left field and Juan Soto will shift to right. Soto, 22, played right in the minors and tried the position in September. The Nationals liked what they saw. After just a few games, they felt comfortable shopping for a left fielder such as Schwarber, who is far better known than his offense than his defense.