Orioles

Orioles make sense for Kyle Schwarber, but is the fit mutual?

Orioles

The Orioles have spent the first six weeks of the MLB offseason shipping more players out of Baltimore than bringing them in.

After releasing first baseman Renato Núñez in late November, the Orioles traded shortstop José Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels and non-tendered second baseman Hanser Alberto. All three infielders made up a significant chunk of the Orioles’ offensive production last season, which opens up some roster spots for them to address in free agency.

One player who could fit into the Orioles’ offense is Kyle Schwarber, the free agent outfielder was non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs earlier this offseason. As ESPN’s Buster Olney pointed out on Twitter, Schwarber is a candidate to sign a one-year deal and re-enter free agency next winter. The former first-round pick pulls the ball nearly half the time he puts it in play, making the lefty-friendly Camden Yards an ideal location to rebuild some value after hitting .188 in 2020.

However, the fit must go both ways. The Orioles are still in the midst of a rebuild under GM Mike Elias, approaching the 2021 season as a developmental year rather than a contending one. Signing Schwarber would give them a potential piece to sell high at the trade deadline if he’s able to return to form. The only question is how he would fit into the Orioles’ roster without blocking any of their young players from getting valuable big-league experience.

Schwarber’s defensive limitations make him either a left fielder or designated hitter. Baltimore’s outfield could be assembled a number of ways but Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins all figure to be in the mix. Then there’s Trey Mancini, who hopes to return next year after missing the 2020 season recovering from a colon cancer diagnosis.

 

If Mancini plays first base, Mountcastle starts in left, Santander plays in right and Hays and Mullins compete for playing time in center field, that leaves Stewart left to vie for the designated hitter spot. Both Stewart and Schwarber are left-handed, so platooning them isn’t really an option. But if the Orioles wanted to make it work, they could make Schwarber their everyday DH while Stewart is the next man up at several spots should an injury arise.

So far, all has been quiet on the Orioles-Schwarber rumor front. In fact, Schwarber has actually been connected to the cross-town Nationals, who are reportedly interested in signing him to replace Adam Eaton in right field. Yet, the slow nature of this winter’s free agency period has kept hot stove rumblings to a minimum, especially for low-budget teams like the Orioles.

It’s unclear what moves, if any, the Orioles will take to directly improve their roster for 2021. Schwarber presents clear upside that could translate into another few prospects for their farm system. If they think they can fit him in without interrupting the development of some of their up-and-coming players, Schwarber could make sense as a power bat in the middle of their lineup come Opening Day.