Despite interest from the New York Yankees, left fielder Kyle Schwarber told media in his introductory press conference on Saturday that he's happy to be in the place where he wanted to go the most.
"Like I said, this was the No. 1 place on my list to be, was Washington," Schwarber said. "Knowing that I can go out there and make an impact with these guys and play the field. I think that was a really good thing here. Obviously, the Yankees are the Yankees and it would've been entertaining what would've happened there. But it didn't, and I'm really happy where I'm at."
Schwarber said there was some initial interest from the Yankees' camp after the Chicago Cubs non-tendered the 27-year-old on Dec. 3. Once he learned there was interest from Washington and - after nothing came to fruition with the Yankees - the lefty slugger said he was excited to sign a deal with his top choice, even if that deal was for a team-friendly one-year contract.
"I got no hard feelings, but I'm excited to move on to Washington here and make new chapters," Schwarber said. "I know it's a one-year deal but I told (general manager Mike Rizzo) when we talked on the phone, 'You know, I'm not approaching this as a one-year deal. I'm coming out and going to give you everything I have and I'm going to play like I've been here five years and still got a couple of years left. I'm going to give you everything I have and invest myself in winning.' That's what I want to do here."
That's quite a good mindset for a player who hit .188 and struck out 66 times in 59 games played during the 2020 season. As someone with noted flaws defensively, Schwarber's one-year deal not only gives him a chance to improve his value before re-negotiating after next season but also a chance to reset as well.
"I don't ever think a change of scenery is bad," Schwarber said. "I definitely would've loved to be in Chicago, but I'm not there. It's the reality and, you know what, I'm embracing it. There' nothing else you can really say about it."
In six seasons as a Cub, Schwarber hit 121 home runs with a batting average of .230 while also sporting a .480 OPS. In his last full season in 2019, Schwarber produced 38 home runs, 132 hits, and 92 RBIs.
Schwarber said the Nationals were a top priority for him due to his relationship with manager Davey Martinez, who served as a bench coach for three of the seasons Schwarber played for Chicago. Martinez was instrumental in teaching him how to be a better outfielder and is excited to get to work defensively, Schwarber said.
"This is the perfect fit. I'm excited to be here and I'm excited to be playing for Davey," he said.
The familiarity that came with frequent meetings with the Nationals in the postseason, including the 2017 and 2019 playoffs, also helped Schwarber make his decision.
"I'm honored to be here. I'm in the business of winning baseball games and I'm pretty sure that this group is all that business as well from all the veterans on the staff to some of the youngest exciting players in this game on the offensive side of the baseball. So, it's going to be a fun time," Schwarber said.
Despite coming off a season where the Nationals finished last in the NL East, Schwarber remains optimistic about the Nats' potential. While he said he thinks this lineup can be dangerous, there was one obvious player he was especially excited to play alongside.
"When you look at Soto, I think he's the best hitter in the game. I really do," Schwarber said. "Even at his age, I think he's one of the best hitters in the game. He's showing it on a consistent basis what he can do and I'm excited to be around him and talk hitting with him. I'm excited to learn something from this guy."