As storybook stay with Cubs closes, what's next for Schwarber?
No matter what happens in the days and seasons ahead, Kyle Schwarber is always going to be best remembered for his time in a Chicago Cubs uniform.
While playing college ball at Indiana, Schwarber's powerful swing was compared to, gulp, Babe Ruth by Stan Zielinski, a Midwest scouting whiz for the Cubs before passing away in 2017.
Schwarber certainly showed some glimpses of the Bambino during his six-year run with the Cubs but he's now a free agent after being non-tendered last week.
He'll never be forgotten on the North Side.
“He's always going to be a Cubs legend,” said president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. “There's no question about that.”
The No. 4 overall draft pick in 2014 after hitting 32 home runs over his final two seasons with the Hoosiers, Schwarber will never forget the love he received from Cubs fans, especially the ones camped in the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field.
“Chicago ... from being drafted, to playoffs 5 out of 6 years, to being a World Series champion!” Schwarber wrote on Twitter. “I want to thank all the fans for the overwhelming support these past 7 years of being in the organization. It never got old running out to left field and being able to give you guys a salute. It really is different at Wrigley. It was an absolute pleasure to go out there everyday and grind with the fellas for you guys and I'm forever grateful for my teammates, coaches, staff and the fans. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart! Until we meet again.”
Schwarber could have commanded as much as $10 million for 2021 had the Cubs offered salary arbitration, so the decision to cut ties with the 27-year-old outfielder was not a surprise.
Last season, Schwarber hit .188/.308/.393 with 11 home runs and 24 RBI while tying for seventh in the National League with 66 strikeouts.
That was quite a drop from 2019, when he had 38 homers and 92 RBI to go with a .250/.339/.531 slash line.
As he heads out the door, Schwarber will best be remembered for his postseason heroics.
A rookie in 2015, he lifted the Cubs to a 4-0 win over the Pirates in the wild-card game while going 2-for-3 with 3 RBI, highlighted by a 2-run homer off Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole that landed in the Allegheny River.
Moving on to the NLDS, he powered the Cubs over the Cardinals while going 5-for-10 with a pair of home runs. Making the Babe Ruth comp come to life in Game 4 vs. St. Louis, Schwarber launched a mammoth homer in Game 4 at Wrigley that landed on top of the right-field scoreboard.
In 2016, Schwarber injured his knee in the second game of the regular season and was expected to miss the rest of the year.
He made it back for the World Series and helped the Cubs rally past the Indians for their first championship in 108 years while going 7-for-17.
That is some legendary stuff under the brightest of lights, and Schwarber's down-to-earth persona elevated his popularity even more.
Now it's on to the next chapter, and there is little doubt Schwarber is going to attract plenty of interest as he explores the free-agent market.
The Yankees are an obvious fit, and Schwarber would add some needed pop from the left side in a lineup loaded with right-handed weapons.
Returning to his native Ohio with the Indians or Reds is also possible, and the Tigers might be an attractive landing spot under new manager A.J. Hinch.
The White Sox are another match that makes sense.
Once again in need of a left-handed power bat at designated hitter, the Sox would also have to weigh Schwarber's cost. Would he be willing to sign a one-year deal in the $5 million range?
Would the White Sox be worried about getting another Adam Dunn? That is a very probable sticking point.
Dunn had incredible left-handed power, but he batted .201/.321/.410 and struck out 720 times in 2,187 plate appearances over four miserable seasons on the South Side.
Schwarber, like Dunn, also struggles to hit left-handed pitching, so the Sox just might hand DH duties over to Andrew Vaughn, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft.