I apologize to my regular readers on Half Street High Heat. Life has taken me away from my usual writing schedule (2 part-time jobs will do that), and it’s been a tough balance.
The last article I wrote on the site was a pitching analysis on May 31st of a tough Joe Ross outing against the Braves, a loss which dropped the Nats to 21-29, dead last in the NL East.
Well, a lot has happened since June started. After last night’s win against the Mets, DC now sits at 38-38 and 3 games back of the division lead in the NL East. A major question would be, what exactly has brought the Nats back from the dead like this (again)? Unlike in 2019, when a huge collection of stars sat on the IL early on, this team simply wasn’t producing for a long time. Yet out of nowhere, the offense began building up massive collections of runs, and an 8-4 barrage featuring home runs by Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Gerardo Parra, and Ryan Zimmerman was no different.
Kyle Schwarber can definitely be picked out as the position player who has made the most impact in the lineup. Let’s look at his stats since being inserted in the leadoff spot on June 12th (Stats via FanGraphs):
- 15 home runs in 17 games (the most ever by a National in a single month)
- First player to hit 10+ home runs in a 9 game span since 2002
- 6 lead off home runs
- Second in the National League with 24 homers on the season
Basically, the man is on fire. And just to add the cherry on top, the Nats as a whole have been 13-4 since he was moved to the leadoff spot. Point blank, Schwarber has done more than the Nats have asked him to do. But there’s a major issue.
Kyle is on a 1-year, $10 million deal. And while some Nats fans were skeptical about what to do with him come the trade deadline or the offseason, the options are now a little clearer:
- Extending Schwarber is a definitive option. While at one point it seemed as though a 3 year/$40 million contract was possible, Schwarber’s value has gone up extremely fast as of late. An extension now would be closer to the 3-for-$60M range, if not higher, depending on how long his hot streak can keep going.
- The next option would be to trade Schwarber at the deadline. While being only three games back of the Mets for the NL East lead has made this option dwindle, there’s no doubt a contending team would salivate for an additional power bat in Schwarber. His defensive skills appear replacement-level on paper, but he has most certainly done well enough to be a major asset for a team in either the American or National League. A top 30 prospect can realistically be a trade option for the Nats at Schwarber’s current pace, something that has to be considered regardless of DC’s deadline plans.
So…which option is better for the Nationals?
As of right now, it’s simply too early to tell. For all we know, the Nats can win ten in a row, or lose ten in a row heading into the All-Star Break. There’s also zero guarantee that Kyle Schwarber can continue at this absurd pace, and his value might have already peaked by the time he might be traded. Personally, I would love to extend Schwarber, but that will likely not come until the offseason, where he can comfortably command as high as $70M for three years, or as low as $30M, depending on how the rest of the season goes. Neither buying or selling is the proper move for DC at the moment.
Here’s how I see it, sitting at the end of the month of June:
- The moment Schwarber starts to cool down, he has to be traded immediately if the Nats are not leading the division. His value is at an all-time high right now, and there’s no reason to risk not being able to land a top 30 prospect (the Nolan Gorman pipe dreams have already started) when it was possible earlier.
- If the Nats have the division lead by August, then he has to be extended. Just as Kyle’s value can tank, it can also continue to skyrocket. If it becomes a possibility he can command over $60M in the offseason market, it’s never too late to lock him up long term.
Truthfully, it all depends on how Schwarber can continue to perform, and the direction it takes the team. I’m still in favor of selling and rebuilding the farm system, but if there’s a legitimate chance that the Nats can contend this season, then they obviously have to take it and run with it. As of right now? I would say to keep waiting. We can’t give an answer right now. But just know that the more leadoff dingers Schwarber hits, the better the situation gets for us.
Half Street High Heat is selling a Kyle SchwaHRber shirt, which you can buy by clicking here.
Happy to be back on the HSHH blog, and hope to get back to my regular writing schedule. Talk to y’all soon.