At some point in every Cubs’ offseason, there are generally two things than happen. One is watching a non-Cubs team celebrate winning the World Series, and the other is wondering what type of season Kyle Schwarber will have the following year. The only time neither of those has happened in the last half decade is 2016.
Schwarber was part of the 2015 rapid influx of rookies to the Cubs, which led to a trip to the NLCS for the first time since 2003. The following year he blew his knee out in the Cubs’ third game of the season, only to return in time to put his boot sideways into the World Series’ ass.
But in subsequent years, there has been a tale of two Schwarbers every year. In the two odd numbered years, he’s had a sluggish first half (even getting a trip to Iowa in 2017) followed by his murdering of baseballs in the second half. In 2018 he had a hot first half (including an awesome display of power at the All-Star home run derby, despite not being an All-Star), followed by a half year of being a league average hitter.
Last year may have been the most dramatic swing in results. He put up MVP caliber numbers in the second half. The difference seems to be a change in his overall approach. Here, take a look:
Notice the difference? Somewhere, maybe at a cookout or something during the 2019 break, Kyle had the epiphany that a guy strong enough to hunt lions with a switch can probably hit a baseball ~400 feet to left field. Pitching him outside and waiting for the popup when he tried pulling the ball suddenly turned into grown-ass men taking home run balls from kids.
Which begs the question – the same question that gets asked every offseason – which Schwarber will show up for the Cubs next season? I mean, if Oleg doesn’t get his way and Schwarber gets traded.
But while his overall numbers – a 2.1 WAR and 120 wRC+ – aren’t bad by any means, his second half numbers – a 280/366/631 split with 151wRC+ – are simply too gaudy to ignore. He basically gave the Cubs Nick Castellanos production (154 wRC+ as a Cub) at a fraction of Nick Castellanos’ price. But we’ve already covered this.
But as it’s always been with our Large Adult Son, it’s a question of which Kyle shows up to dance before the first inning. If he has two halves like his 2019 second half, well…the thought if it is tantalizing. But again, if he has two halves like his 2019 first half, he’ll still ht around 30 home runs, just with a lot less contact, and fewer times getting on base.
The easy and most logical thing for the Cubs to do here is to pay Kyle and see what happens. MLB Trade Rumors projected him as getting around $8 mildo for 2020, and at around $9 million for one win, that seems like a bargain. That’s when discussing a possible extension makes sense. But even if he has what constitutes a bad year for him, they’re still not exactly getting rooked. His lowest WAR in a season (according to Fangraphs) was his 1.7 in 2017. If the Cubs want to give him even a couple years, it alleviates the shitstorm of expiring contracts following the 2021 season. So that might make some sense, regardless of what he does in 2020.
Now we can sit back and see how wrong I am.