As long as Kyle Schwarber's on the Cubs, Kyle Schwarber's going to lead the Cubs. As the former 1st-round pick (4th overall) begins his sixth season, there's a sense around the team that 2020's going to be a big one for him.
"Oh yeah, it's going to be a great year," he said on Wednesday morning. "It's fun coming in and seeing everyone. Obviously with Cubs Convention, you get to see the faces all over again. Now that we're going to be back together full time, getting after it with each other, we're excited, we're hungry, and it's going to be a fun camp."
Perhaps no one from the Cubs' core – maybe with the exception of Kris Bryant – has faced more scrutiny and been a centerpiece in more trade rumors than Schwarber. Always a threat at the plate, his deficiencies in left field have had people insisting that he'd be better suited as a DH for years now. After setting a career-worst in Outs Above Average (OOA) last season, maybe that's still the case. That's no matter to him; he's heard this all before.
"I've learned my lessons from previous years to obviously not look into things like that," he said. "At the end of the day, those are all things you can't control as players. As I said, we're all still getting to play the game that we love, and that's all you can ask for. You know, obviously I think everyone in this room would still all love to be here, being with each other, keep going to battle, but the reality of it is that it might not happen."
It's rare to hear an athlete talk as candidly about trade rumors as Schwarber does. It feels like every season that the Cubs need some relief help at the deadline, he's being shipped to whatever AL East team is out of the race by mid-July. In a way, being so often surrounded by uncertainty has been critical in molding Schwarber into the type of leader that first-year managers love to have.
"He's always had those leadership qualities," David Ross said. "I think those things are easier to come out once you feel secure in what you're doing at the plate. The way he finished his season last year, in the second half, was pretty dominant. Pretty impressive. So I think you'll see a great version of Kyle this spring and going into the season. He is one of those guys that will speak up, and I'm going to rely on him to do that."
It's certainly easier to be a leader when you hit .250 /.339/.531 with 38 home runs. He's coming off the best stretch of baseball in his young career, too: in the back half of 2019, Schwarber hit .280/.366/.631 (151 wRC+) with 20 home runs. As he heads into Year 6, though, good stretches of baseball are no longer enough.
"You know, consistency is the name of the game," he said. "That's how it is. The best in this game – you see Rizz, you see a lot of people in this clubhouse – consistency is the name of the game. That's what I expect out of myself: consistency. To be able do it day in and day out."
There will surely be more trade rumors, especially if the Cubs get off to another prolonged poor start. The core won't be together forever, no matter how hard Schwarber, or Rizzo, or Ross suggest otherwise. That's a conversation for another day, though.
"Do I look like a guy that thinks about my future?," Schwarber asked, with a smile. "For the most part, I live day-by-day, man. I'm just happy I showed up today."
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