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Saturday’s MLB: Kyle Schwarber, Nationals agree to 1-year, $10M deal

Howard Fendrich
Associated Press

Washington — Slugging outfielder Kyle Schwarber has agreed in principle to a one-year, $10 million contract with the Washington Nationals, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person confirmed the agreement to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Saturday because a physical exam was still pending for Schwarber.

Kyle Schwarber and the Nationals have agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal, according to a person who confirmed the agreement with the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Schwarber was able to sign with any club after becoming a free agent last month when he was non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs. He was a member of their drought-ending 2016 World Series championship team, hitting .412 in the Fall Classic after missing much of that season with an injured left knee.

The 27-year-old Schwarber struggled at the plate during the pandemic-truncated 2020 season, hitting .188 with a .701 OPS for the Cubs. 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.

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

Schwarber fills two needs that Washington general manager Mike Rizzo outlined heading into the offseason: a corner outfielder and a power hitter to help protect NL batting champion Juan Soto in the lineup.

Unless the designated hitter rule is brought back to the National League in 2021, it seems likely that Schwarber could 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.

Jays add RHP

The Toronto Blue Jays have signed right-hander A.J. Cole to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

Cole appeared in 24 games as a reliever for the Blue Jays in 2020, going 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA. The team non-tendered him Dec. 2 to open up roster spots but kept the door open for a possible return.

The 29-year-old Cole made his big league debut in 2015 with the Washington Nationals and has had stints with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians prior to joining Toronto in 2020. He is 14-10 with a 4.65 ERA in 103 career games.