Kyle Schwarber talked shortly after signing his 1-year/$10M contract with the Washington Nationals last month about both his history with Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez from the time the two of them spent together with the Chicago Cubs and the current roster in the nation’s capital as two significant factors in his decision to join the team for the 2021 campaign.
Schwarber’s history of playing against the Nationals also helped him form his opinion of the club.
“This was definitely one of the top priorities on my list,” Schwarber said of his interest in the Nationals once he became a free agent, “... one, just because knowing the organization, having played some really good games against these guys in the playoffs back in ‘17, just playing really good baseball against them in general and even in ‘19 when they came into Chicago and swept us, when we were in Chicago, and obviously having the relationship with Davey was a big factor as well, and once I heard that they had interest, it was definitely something I wanted to pursue and we were able to work everything out and as soon as everything was in line I was ready to say, ‘Yes,’ right away and get this thing going and make this thing official.”
Martinez, the bench coach for the Cubs from 2015-17, for Schwarber’s first three seasons in the majors, told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette a day after the Nats’ deal with the outfielder was announced, that the Nationals were just as eager to get a deal done him as he was to sign on in D.C.
“He is all about winning,” the manager said of Schwarber, “... and he became available and obviously [GM Mike] Rizzo and I talked about him. I’ve always loved him. He’s a gamer. He plays hard. You know what you’re going to get every day from him, and he works — probably one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever met. He just wants to get better, he loves his teammates and then just wants to go out there and play and win.”
“I’m honored to be here,” Schwarber told reporters in a Zoom call after he signed. “I’m in the business of winning baseball games and I’m pretty sure that this group is all in that business as well, from all the veterans on their staff to some of the most young, exciting players in this game on the offensive side of the baseball.
“It’s going to be a fun time.”
Schwarber knows the Nationals well, as he said, and he is familiar with one of the other new additions, and excited about the entire group he’ll be joining for what will be his seventh big league campaign,
“I think that this is going to be a pretty easy fit coming in,” the Nationals’ new left fielder said.
“These are guys where you have a lot of established big league guys that are really, really good. I mean, you see [Max Scherzer], [Stephen Strasburg], [Patrick] Corbin, then you’ve got your young guys, [Juan] Soto, [Victor] Robles, Trea Turner, he’s not young, I’d say he’s definitely on his way up to the veteran deal.
“Josh Bell too, being able to play against Josh in the NL Central for the last five years as well.
“Great group of guys. Yan Gomes behind the plate. Starlin Castro at second base, playing with Castro as well. Josh Harrison, being a Cincinnati guy, I know him pretty well too, so there’s definitely some familiarity.
“I’m excited to come in here. I know that these guys just want to come in and they want to win. They’re competitors. I love watching Scherzer go out there every day.
“I loved facing that guy, because when he was fired up, I’m getting fired up in the box with him. I’m ready to compete with this guy.
“I think that the fit is going to be great. Hopefully once I walk in it’s going to be an easy transition of these guys and I think that rolling into Day 1 of Spring Training, going to try to get to know everyone and be as open as I can and hopefully try to rub off on some of these young guys and just go from there.”
Part of the appeal of the roster in D.C., Schwarber said, is the approach Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office take in assembling their teams, with a focus on character and how all the players fit in the clubhouse.
The fact that they wanted the now-former Cubs’ outfielder meant a lot to him.
“I put everything I’ve got into this game, and I’m going to put it out there every day. And I think teams hopefully respect that, and I think that was a case here where they look into a lot of the people they want to bring into the organization.
“Talking to Mike Rizzo, he’s a big believer in bringing in the right people into the organization, which is a complete compliment, and I told him, ‘Thank you for that.’
“He’s a big believer in just making sure we have the right people in the room, because if you have the right people in the room, winning comes along with it. So I think that’s something I guess that could have went into it. I can’t answer that question for you. I’m not a front office member, I’m a baseball player, and I’m just excited to be here.”