After a down year in which the Red Sox produced lackluster slugging numbers from their first baseman and designated hitters, the club is looking for an upgrade in the power department. While Boston could choose to upgrade via free agency, they're also exploring the trade market, and have shown interested in Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, according to ESPN's Scott Lauber.
While Schwarber, 24, excited fans worldwide with a strong rookie season, followed by a.412/.500/.471 slash line in the 2016 World Series (despite missing all but three games during the 2016 regular season due to ACL and LCL tears), the 20-plate-appearance sample size didn't carry over into 2017. Schwarber struggled through the first half last spring, bottoming out with a demotion to AAA Iowa in late June. His second half was certainly stronger, but Schwarber's final numbers for 2017 are lackluster: 486 PAs, .211/.315/.467 AVG/OBP/SLG, 30 HRs, 59 RBIs, 150 Ks.
However, scouts and fans alike have long persisted that Schwarber's bulky physique played best in the American League, where the slugger could serve as a full-time designated hitter. The Red Sox utilized both Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland in DH/1B spots last season, and while both produced near-average offensive numbers, Boston was certainly hoping for more. With Moreland heading to free agency, the BoSox have space to pursue another DH/1B type, and Schwarber would fit perfectly into their plan: high-ceiling talent with control. Schwarber will make about league-miminum salary in 2018 before entering three seasons of salary arbitration. Schwarber will enter free agency at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
It is still relatively unknown how the Cubs will value Schwarber on the open market—it may not make much sense for Chicago to deal the slugger while his value is at an all-time low. Yet the Cubs need pitching help, and General Manager Theo Epstein has acknowledged that he is willing to move major-league pieces to help the pitching staff this offseason.
In related Red Sox news, the club is reportedly considering upgrading at DH via free agency:
Red Sox seeking a big hitter. Looking at JD, Hosmer and possible trade candidates (Schwarber, via @ScottLauber)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 10, 2017
Both Hosmer and Martinez would significantly boost the middle of Boston's lineup, but the Red Sox would most likely have to overpay to reach a deal with either of them. Martinez' agent Scott Boras is on record as seeking a $200 million+ contract for the breakout slugger, though it's unlikely that any team would succumb to his lofty expectations.
Martinez' unbelievable performance in Arizona this summer, in which he slashed .302/.366/.741 with 29 homers in just 62 games, has put the former Tiger in line for a huge payday this winter. Although Martinez, 30, has experience in right field, Boston would likely slot the All-Star in at DH; the Red Sox' trio of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Mookie Betts is one of baseball's most talented outfields both offensively and defensively.
As for Hosmer, 28, the four-time Gold Glove winner can use age to his advantage in negotiations this winter. In 2017, Hosmer excelled offensively all season long despite Kansas City's struggles. Across 671 plate appearances, Hosmer slashed .318/.385/.498, good for a career-best 132 OPS+.
Oh, and another reason for the Red Sox to like Hosmer: he appeared in all 162 games last season. As a young star both with the bat and the glove, and with a healthy track record, Hosmer would make a lot of sense for a Red Sox club looking to compete with the Yankees for the foreseeable future. As of right now, however, it appears that the Padres are making the strongest push for the first baseman.