Report: Schwarber, Nationals agree to 1-year, $10M deal

Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — Now that they’re both with the Washington Nationals, Kyle Schwarber recalls joking around with Dave Martinez when both were with the Chicago Cubs – Schwarber a slugger, Martinez a bench coach.

“He goes, `Whenever I get a manager’s job, you are going to come over, and you are going to play for me,”‘ Schwarber recounted. “And now it’s come to fruition.”

The power-hitting outfielder who had a big 2019 and a disappointing 2020 signed a one-year contract with Washington for 2021 that guarantees him $10 million, and Schwarber said Saturday his relationship with current Nationals skipper Martinez was “a big factor.”

“Davey was a huge influence on me in baseball,” Schwarber said, noting that Martinez helped him make the transition from catcher to outfielder in Chicago.

“I love him. I’m so excited to be playing for this guy. I know he’s a baseball guy. He cares about his players,” Schwarber said. “He loves winning. He only wants to win.”

Schwarber will make $7 million this season and the contract includes a mutual option for 2022 that would be worth $11.5 million if exercised or guarantee a $3 million buyout if not.

Schwarber was able to sign with any club after becoming a free agent last month when he was non-tendered by the Cubs. He was a member of their drought-ending 2016 World Series championship team – and Martinez was on then-manager Joe Maddon’s staff at the time – hitting .412 in the Fall Classic after missing much of that season with an injured left knee.

He was taken by Chicago with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft and has proven to deliver homers and strikeouts in bunches.

“It’s always going to be a special place in my heart, especially because of 2016 and what we did there,” Schwarber said, but acknowledged he was “definitely disappointed” to be non-tendered.

“It’s not the way I wanted to leave my tenure in Chicago,” he said.

The 27-year-old Schwarber struggled at the plate during the pandemic-truncated 2020 season, hitting .188 with a .701 OPS. He earned $2,596,296 prorated of a $7.01 million salary.

A year earlier, he produced 38 homers and 92 RBIs, a .250 batting average and an .871 on-base plus slugging percentage, all career highs.

“I don’t put much stock into (2020), just because I know it’s not a representation of myself. But at the end of the day, you need to look back and kind of find out what was going wrong there and find those tweaks and go from there,” he said. Coming off of ’19, it was a great year for me, and then 2020 wasn’t the best, but I’m going to learn from that.”

Schwarber could take care of two needs that Washington general manager Mike Rizzo outlined heading into the offseason: a corner outfielder and a power hitter to help protect Juan Soto, the 22-year-old who was the NL batting champion last season, in the lineup.

“When you look at Soto, I mean obviously, I think he’s probably – I think he’s the best hitter in the game. I really do,” Schwarber said. “Even at his age, I think he’s one of the best hitters in the game.”

Unless the designated hitter rule is brought back to the NL in 2021, it seems likely that Schwarber would start in left field, with Soto sliding from that spot over to right field, where he saw a bit of time late last season.

This is Rizzo’s second significant attempt to boost the lineup, after making a trade to acquire first baseman Josh Bell, a 2019 NL All-Star, from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Like Schwarber, the 28-year-old Bell had a career year in 2019 – 37 homers, 116 RBIs, .936 OPS – and slumped in 2020. Bell had a .226 batting average and .669 OPS last season.

The Nationals went 26-34 in 2020 and tied for last place in the NL East, a year after winning the franchise’s first World Series title.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.