Of everyone we've considered this week, Kyle Schwarber remains the most realistic possibility.
Author's Note: Each day this week, we'll advocate for the Red Sox to consider one of the top remaining free agents in a feature called, "Making the Case." Today's installment: Kyle Schwarber. Previously, we dissected Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, and Clayton Kershaw.
He won't be as expensive as Carlos Correa or Freddie Freeman, he's not as unproven as tomorrow's entry, Seiya Suzuki, and there's already a comfort level with him in Boston given his contributions last season.
While it's fair to wonder how far the Red Sox will extend financially for a DH while J.D. Martinez remains on the roster, the case for Schwarber is pretty straightforward.
His return from a severe hamstring strain in August coincided with the club's ascent to the wild card. Schwarber was instrumental to that success, adding left-handed pop to a lineup in desperate need of balance.
He hit .291 with a .957 OPS in 41 games before continuing his success in the postseason with three home runs. His grand slam in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros ended up being the final highlight of the season, as Schwarber went hitless in the next three contests and Houston rallied to claim the series in six games.
Still, by that point the Red Sox had seen more than enough to recognize how well he could fit long-term. After spending the first six years of his career as a low-average, high-walk slugger, he became a more complete hitter between Washington and Boston, controlling the strike zone and hammering pitches in it.
For the first time in his career, he dictated the tenor of an at-bat rather than reacting. He ranked among baseball's best hitters in barrel rate, exit velocity, and chase percentage, and at age 28, it's not unreasonable to expect that the new Schwarber is here to stay.
While he may not be a perfect fit for the 2022 Red Sox because he's blocked at DH by Martinez, he certainly makes sense in 2023 and beyond, when Martinez will almost certainly have departed. There's also the possibility that acquiring Schwarber allows chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to explore trades involving Martinez, who may suddenly be of interest to an entirely new league if the NL adds the DH as expected in the next CBA.
Add tremendous intangibles -- Schwarber integrated seamlessly into the clubhouse and is no stranger to pennant-race pressure thanks to six seasons and one World Series title with the Cubs -- and it's worth extending his Red Sox tenure beyond a rental.
MLB Trade Rumors projects that he'll receive four years and $70 million, while FanGraphs pegs him at four years and $60 million. Considering what Schwarber brought to the table in 2021, that sounds like a reasonable rate for a slugger with a habit of showing up on the big stage.
If the Red Sox are looking to add an impact bat this winter without breaking the budget, Schwarber could certainly be a solid alternative to the Correas and Freemans at the top of the market.