Pros and Cons: Should Mets sign free agent Kyle Schwarber if NL adds DH?

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  • New York Mets
    New York Mets
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Kyle Schwarber
    Kyle Schwarber
    American professional baseball player
Kyle Schwarber with Red Sox treated art 2022
Kyle Schwarber with Red Sox treated art 2022

With MLB still mired in a lockout, all big league roster movement is frozen. But one result of the eventual end of the lockout will very likely be a new CBA that includes the implementation of the universal DH.

If the league does indeed add the universal DH as expected, there are a bunch of different ways the Mets could fill it.

And if New York decides to go external to address the DH role, one free agent they could consider is Kyle Schwarber.

Would Schwarber make sense as a Mets target?

Pros of signing Schwarber

Still only 28 years old (he'll turn 29 on March 5), Schwarber is coming off the most impressive season of his career. In 113 games with the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox (he tormented the Mets in both uniforms), Schwarber hit .266/.374/.554 with 32 homers and 71 RBI.

A deeper look at Schwarber's performance in 2021 shows that it was no fluke. He was elite when it came to exit velocity, hard hit percentage, xwOBA, xSLG, barrel percentage, walk rate, and chase rate.

And looking at Schwarber's career, it's easy to label his disastrous 2020 season (he hit just .188/.308/.393 during the shortened season) an aberration.

Schwarber's career triple slash is .237/.343/.493, and he's averaged 37 homers per 162 games. So it's fair to believe that entering his age-29 season and coming off the best year of his career that his offensive output will be strong over the next few seasons.

As a player who was traded during last season, Schwarber was also not subject to the qualifying offer, meaning the Mets would be able to sign him without giving up draft pick compensation.

Signing Schwarber, whose presence would likely clog up the DH spot (more on that below) would also free the Mets up to trade players like Dominic Smith and/or J.D. Davis -- potentially helping them bring back starting pitching in return.

New York Mets left fielder Dominic Smith (2) reacts after hitting a grand slam home run against the Cincinnati Reds in the third inning at Great American Ball Park.
New York Mets left fielder Dominic Smith (2) reacts after hitting a grand slam home run against the Cincinnati Reds in the third inning at Great American Ball Park.

With New York arguably in need of one more power bat in a lineup that has been bolstered by the acquisitions of Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Mark Canha, Schwarber is an intriguing option.

Cons of signing Schwarber

While Schwarber packs a punch at the plate and should have staying power as an offensive threat, his defensive shortcomings make him a truly one-dimensional player.

If you're wondering why Schwarber's defense matters if he's going to be signed as a DH, we'll answer that below. But first, let's discuss his defensive limitations.

When it comes to OAA (Outs Above Average), Schwarber was in the 1st percentile in 2021, making him among the very worst defensive players in all of baseball.

In the field, he is only playable (and we're using that word loosely here) in left field and at first base. But no team should ever want to rely on Schwarber as anything more than an emergency fill-in defensively.

That means that if the Mets sign Schwarber, he would clog a DH spot that might otherwise be used to spread at-bats around. It should also be noted that while Schwarber provides lots of power, he strikes out a ton (roughly 28 percent of his plate appearances over the course of his career).

And the main concern should be the impact beyond 2022, when Schwarber (who is expected to get a multiyear contract and could easily get a three or four-year deal) could block a prospect like Mark Vientos, whose future could be at DH.

Mets prospect Mark Vientos swinging at 2021 spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Mets prospect Mark Vientos swinging at 2021 spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Additionally, in a scenario where a player like Pete Alonso or Brandon Nimmo or Canha isn't at 100 percent but is able to take at-bats as the DH, the Mets would be in a tough spot when it comes to what to do with Schwarber.

Verdict

Allocating significant years and dollars to a player who can basically only DH is not wise.

So when it comes to the Mets' plans at DH (again, if the NL adds it), they should be going short-term on a player like Nelson Cruz (whose presence would not be a hindrance beyond 2022) or go internal.

Or the Mets can sign someone like Kris Bryant (who can play all over the diamond) and spread the DH at-bats around.

As a hitter, Schwarber makes a ton of sense for the Mets. But when looking at the overall situation and considering his defensive limitations, what it would cost in terms of years and dollars to sign him, and the potentially negative impact it could have on roster construction in 2022 and beyond, it should be an easy pass.