Detroit Tigers: Signing Kyle Schwarber is a gamble Al Avila should make

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs non-tender of Kyle Schwarber could allow the Detroit Tigers to sign the left-handed power bat they have been seeking since moving to Comerica Park.

Every once in a great while, opportunity comes along, and when it does, the Detroit Tigers must seize it. On Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs decided to sever ties with former-World Series hero Kyle Schwarber by non-tendering him a contract, allowing the outfielder to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent.

For years, Tigers fans in Motown have been screaming from the right-field bleachers for a left-handed slugger capable of crushing baseballs up onto the Pepsi Porch. Sadly, the closest season ticket holders have ever come to witnessing the dream was when Bobby Abreu put on a home run hitting spectacle for the ages by hitting 41-total dingers en route to being crowned the 2005 All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby Champion.

Although Schwarber is expected to draw plenty of interest on the market, it would make sense for Tigers’ general manager, Al Avila,  to slug-it-out for the 27-year-old lefty. He’s got a big swing with “get outta here quick” power and has plenty of fuel left in the tank to make an impact in Detroit’s everyday lineup from either the outfield or as a designated hitter.

What do the numbers say about Kyle Schwarber’s potential impact?

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Throw Schwarber’s .188 average in the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 60-game season right out of the window.

Missing nearly two-thirds of a season is not enough to write-off a left-handed home run hitter in baseball’s modern, “all-or-nothing” era.

He’s the fastest Cubs player ever to reach the 100-home run plateau. Schwarber also holds the second-highest home runs per at-bat rate in Cubs history behind only legendary slugger Sammy Sosa.

I’m sure Avila and the Detroit fanbase wouldn’t mind seeing Schwarber go down-town every 14.9 at-bats.

From 2017-2019, Schwarber maintained averages of 31-homers, 70-RBI’s, and managed to get on-base at a .336 clip.

Now that he’s eliminated the concerns about his health that plagued him during his early-career transition to the outfield, the “Cubs legend” looks to be a great fit to wear the Tigers’ infamous old-English style “D.”

What type of price tag will the Detroit Tigers be looking at for Kyle Schwarber?

By cutting Schwarber, new Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer is expected to save between $9-10 million the slugger likely would’ve received in arbitration this season while also gaining both payroll and outfield positioning flexibility.

No worries there. Hoyer’s gain should actually be viewed as a loss, and Avila will be more than happy to fork over the cash for that price-tag on a two, or three-year deal that will allow Schwarber to get comfortable with the confines of Comerica Park.

Right now, Major League Baseball is reportedly reverting back to the American League-only designated hitter rule for 2021. However, that could change by 2022 when the MLBPA’s current collective bargaining agreement with the league is renegotiated.

At that time, Schwarber will be approaching thirty, and the Tigers or another major-market team will have had the opportunity to evaluate the hitter’s performance. It’s the potential impact those seasons will have on the hitter’s last opportunity to earn a high-value/long-term contract for either an AL team or an NL squad.

Where would Kyle Schwarber fit in the Detroit Tigers’ current lineup?

Currently, longtime Tigers great Miguel Cabrera is a mainstay as the team’s designated hitter. It’s expected he’ll remain there until Detroit pays off the $102 million owed to him on a deal that expires in 2024. His performance has regressed to the point that his contract can be deemed “unmovable.”

Schwarber has long been removed from his days as a catching prospect. Even though the Tigers have a need at the position, it’s highly improbable that the slugger’s knee would permit a return behind the plate.

That leaves an outfield spot open for Schwarber. Which is okay, considering the Tigers will be juggling a plethora of players in-and-out of their rotation, seeking one that can consistently contribute at the plate while waiting on top-hitting left-handed prospect Riley Greene to arrive and anchor center-field.

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A tandem including Schwarber, Greene, and JaCoby Jones would certainly play nice to the delight of fans in Motown.