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OTM Roundtable: To Schwarb or not to Schwarb

That is the question.

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Championship Series - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The first domino for the Boston Red Sox to fall this winter was a big one, with J.D. Martinez declining the opportunity to opt out of his contract and instead sticking with the Red Sox for at least one more year. It’s hard to complain a whole lot about that since he’s been a lineup anchor since 2018 and was a very big part of their offense again this past year, but there were some who wanted to see it go in another direction. The main reason for that feeling was that Martinez opting out would theoretically make it easier to bring back Kyle Schwarber.

Of course, even with Martinez back the Red Sox have made clear they are not stopping discussions with Schwarber. It’s never smart to read too much into comments like that as teams are not allowed to say they’re not pursuing specific free agents, but given what Schwarber meant for the team down the stretch and in October I tend to think they’re genuine. That doesn’t mean they’ll definitely sign him, though. That’s the topic of our staff roundtable today, with the question this week being whether or not we would still sign Schwarber at MLB Trade Rumor’s projected four-year, $70 million contract even after Martinez declined to opt-out.

Jake Devereaux

I would not bring back Kyle Schwarber at 4-years and $70 million after J.D. Martinez decided to opt into the final year of his deal. As much as I like Schwarber’s bat, I’d rather take that money and put it towards a player like Marcus Semien. Semien fills a position of need — second base — and plays elite defense, something this team needs. You would also be taking away a huge weapon from one of your division rivals.

The Red Sox are strapped with ways to improve defensively with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers occupying the left side of the infield. Semien could alleviate this by making up for Bogaerts limited range. This move would also allow Enrique Hernández to play the outfield full time strengthening that unit. With Triston Casas knocking on the door and Bobby Dalbec improving in the second half, it doesn’t make sense to shoehorn Schwarber into first base either.

Keaton DeRocher

Yes, I sure would. Martinez only has one year left with the Red Sox and Cora was able to navigate the rotations and playing time well enough when Schwarber was healthy down the stretch and into the playoffs that I don’t think it would be an issue for one season. I don’t think Martinez opting in should affect how they approach adding talent to the team, though, his opting in shouldn’t have affected Mookie Betts still being on the Sox and the front office was quick to jump to that as an excuse.

This feels different, though, with Chaim Bloom getting out in front of that and announcing they are going to pursue him. Schwarber may also not be great defensively but he is probably better and more versatile than Martinez is on that front, and with the latter taking a bit of a step back from his prime numbers, having a bat like Schwarber as insurance is a big boost. There’s nothing but positives in the pursuit on Schwarber, so I would do it.

Michael Walsh

I would not bring back Kyle Schwarber for that price. I’m a big Schwarber fan, but it’s going to be tough to find a consistent spot for him without compromising the defense. He’s a great hitter and would’ve made a solid DH/outfield depth replacement for J.D. Martinez, but with the latter back in the fold, re-signing Schwarber doesn’t make much sense at that price.

Championship Series - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Three Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Scott Neville

Let me start by saying 4/70 is a perfectly fair offer for Kyle Schwarber. If the Red Sox signed Schwarber with that deal I would be excited. In a vacuum, I would love to bring Schwarber back for four years at a reasonable price. However, his presence would cause daily confusion when trying to put an optimal lineup together. If they do not plan on adding other marquee position player free agents, I would definitely want Schwarber on that deal. In that case, you could throw Schwarber in left field, Verdugo in center field, and move Hernández to second base full time. Dalbec would get a shot full-time at first base to prove his potential and Casas would have a more clear path to the majors. If Dalbec fails to improve, Schwarber will have a full offseason to develop his defense at first base, which was actually not too bad in the first place. The lineup issues are more prevalent when everyone on the team is healthy and unfortunately, that is not going to be the case all season.

With all of that said, my ideal situation would be to sign a premier shortstop or Semien. Schwarber was an awesome deadline acquisition and his new approach would continue to work wonders at Fenway. However, if we can boost the lineup with a middle infielder, that would make the Red Sox stronger overall. With Schwarber at first base, Dalbec’s growth will be stunted and Casas will be blocked. For Schwarber to be in the outfield, either Verdugo or Hernandez would have to take a back seat assuming we make any addition at all. Either way, the already deplorable defense takes a hit. I love Kyle Schwarber in a Red Sox uniform but a middle infielder should be the priority. If I’m Bloom, I only sign off on 4/70 for Schwarber if I know we have a middle infielder on the way as well.

Shelly Verougstraete

I would love to bring back Schwarber on a multi-year deal. Martinez is a free agent after this year and they could transition Schwarbs to a DH role while having Casas locking down 1B. They should still have Verdugo/Renfroe/Duran on the roster to patrol the outfield, Schwarber would a great addition to the team this year and a few more years to come.

Phil Neuffer

Kyle Schwarber was incredible in his half season with the Red Sox. At the trade deadline, it felt like the Red Sox did very little (and the bullpen additions turned out to be like that), but adding Schwarber was a master stroke from Chaim Bloom. However, making a decision about his potential future with the team requires a more long-term view.

Schwarber is a great hitter, but he doesn’t have a great fit position-wise with the Red Sox. If they didn’t have Bobby Dalbec and Triston Casas, then trying to keep converting him to first base could make sense, but blocking Casas and stunting Dalbec’s development would be a weird move. In addition, Schwarber can play the outfield, but he’s already not a great defender, so will he really be playable there in three or four years? Add in the fact that the Red Sox need more pitching help than offensive help and I’d rather see them allocate resources to the rotation and bullpen.

American League Championship Series Game 3: Houston Astros v. Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

However, the Red Sox are also one of the top spending teams in MLB, so if they’re willing to go big and make additional splashes, keeping a 28-year-old offensive force would go a long way, even if it might hurt them defensively, especially at the rate MLB Trade Rumors is predicting. The Red Sox showed how much more explosive their already strong offense could be with Schwarber this past season. Having him as a pillar in the lineup for years would only make them more dangerous, especially if they also improve the pitching staff.

Ultimately, I think the long-term play is to let Schwarber go, but at four years and $70 million, I think there’s enough to like (both production and cost wise) to make it a worthwhile move. Now that you’ve read my fence-sitting ramblings, here’s my verdict: Bring him back.

Mike Carlucci

Honestly, yes, I’d add Kyle Schwarber anyway. Bobby Dalbec is really promising and had an excellent second half. He’s got Triston Casas in his rear view mirror pushing his way through the minors too. And even Rafael Devers might be destined for first base. But Kyle Schwarber can play there too. He can play left field. He can DH. It was only a year ago that J.D. Martinez was coming off a dreadful 2020. Martinez is 33 as of August and Kyle Schwarber will be 29 in April 2022. Martinez has one year left. The Red Sox have money and Schwarber doesn’t come with the drawback of a qualifying offer.

If he’s available for 4/70 or 5/80 or whatever you’re basically replacing prime J.D. with prime Schwarber. It’s getting through 2022 that’s the hard part but Martinez tripped on the second base bag in a total fluke and missed a couple games in October. Anything could happen! Heck, if things are going really well trade J.D. at the deadline with someone who needs a bat. If Schwarber wants to return, as much as any player in town for a few months can honestly say they like playing there, then see what’s out there. Obviously look for another starting pitcher, maybe a second baseman, a fire throwing bullpen arm…but kind of like the draft, getting the best players possible and going from there is a good strategy.

Matt Collins

I’m really on the fence with this one, and ultimately think I would only do it if I was confidence in my ability to find a worthwhile trade for one of J.D. Martinez, Alex Verdugo, or Hunter Renfroe. I wouldn’t trade either of them just to trade them and would need to get equal value back at a position of need, but if that happened I’d be willing to bring in Schwarber to play left field, or rotate with Martinez in the DH and left field spots. I think the 4/70 contract is incredibly reasonable, but at the end of the day the team’s infield defense is too shaky for me to feel comfortable with him as the main plan at first base.

Avery Hamel

I think that Kyle Schwarber is a fan-favorite who many want to see back with the Red Sox in 2022. But something to think about is whether or not his 2021 numbers are sustainable. Is his performance going to remain like this forever? Probably not. Is it useful for the Sox to sign him if it is a sustainable aspect? Probably so. The hard part is the guessing game involved in this. For me, I would not be massively upset with either binary outcome with Schwarber this year. Dalbec showed flashes of greatness at the end of the season, and Casas is on the rise, so I’d say even without Schwarber, the Sox 1B/OF situation is looking better now than it has in the past.

Brendan Campbell

Even after J.D. Martinez opted in earlier this week, I would still entertain bringing Kyle Schwarber back at the four-year, $70 million deal MLB Trade Rumors projected him to get if I were the Red Sox. The reason being that Martinez will be entering the final year of the five-year pact he signed in 2018. With both Schwarber and Martinez in the fold, the Red Sox would need to get creative in getting both of their impact bats into their lineup regularly in 2022.

However, once the 2022 season ends, the Red Sox could elect to not bring Martinez back, thus paving the way for Schwarber to emerge as the team’s regular designated hitter for 2023 and beyond if they so choose.

Bayleigh Von Schneider

This one is a real Sophie’s Choice, mainly because the player Kyle Schwarber was for the Boston Red Sox in 2021 was nothing short of astounding. Schwarber will enter his age 29 season, meaning there is probably a good bit left in the tank, and he’s for in perfectly as the DH of the future after the Red Sox move on from Martinez after 2022. I would say, the Red Sox should just roll with it, sign Schwarber, put him at 1B, LF, and at times DH in 2022, and then have 2023 and beyond set up nicely for him to become the full time DH. The Red Sox lineup was at its best in 2021 when Kyle Schwarber was hitting in at one of the top two spots.