Yankees would be wise to acquire Kyle Schwarber to fill DH role

Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber comes out of the dugout to tip his hat after hitting a home run in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field Sunday, June 11, 2017 in Chicago.   (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Credit: Nancy Stone

Credit: Nancy Stone

Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber comes out of the dugout to tip his hat after hitting a home run in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field Sunday, June 11, 2017 in Chicago. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The Yankees wanted Shohei Otani mostly for his pitching, but they were also willing to let him hit as a DH when he wasn't on the mound, so his refusal to consider playing in the Bronx raises the question of who will get those at-bats.

GM Brian Cashman could plan on dividing them up among his surplus of position players, but here's a better idea: trade for Kyle Schwarber.

Such a notion has been out there going back to the 2016 trade deadline, when the Yankees would have gladly taken Schwarber for Aroldis Chapman, except the Cubs weren't about to give him up at the time, even though he was sidelined due to knee surgery.

But now the time seems right and more realistic for a number of reasons:

Above all, Schwarber is no longer off-limits. The Cubs were more than willing to find a position for him when it appeared he was going to be a superstar with the bat, but his defensive shortcomings aren't nearly as easy to overlook after he hit .211 last season with 150 strikeouts in 129 games.

Of course, he still hit 30 home runs, but in this longball era of big-league baseball, that power has been devalued a bit.

In addition, the Cubs are also loaded with young position players, and the emergence last season of rookie Ian Happ, a power-hitting switch-hitter who played infield and outfield, allows them more freedom to move Schwarber.

At this point, in fact, they may see him as a one-dimensional player who doesn't really have a position, since the Cubs have given up on the idea that he can catch in the big leagues.

But obviously the Yankees don't need him to play defense. And Schwarber, at age 24, is still considered a dynamic hitter whose problems last year likely were related at least partly to missing nearly the entire 2016 season.

As it was, he put together a solid second half, hitting .253 with 17 home runs and an .894 OPS.

Perhaps most significantly, the Cubs are in need of quality pitching in the bullpen as well as the starting rotation (assuming they don't get Otani), with little help coming from their farm system, as they try to cash in on their window to win another championship with this group of young position players.

So how about Dellin Betances and Chance Adams for Schwarber?

Yankee fans might think it's too much to give, since Betances is fully capable of overcoming his control issues and re-establishing himself as one of the most dominant relievers in baseball, and Adams is a major league-ready starter coming off two impressive minor-league seasons.

But think of how Schwarber's left-handed power will play at the Stadium.

"It's not hard to see him putting up big numbers there," one major league scout said on Tuesday. "He can flat hit. I think that slump last year snowballed on him, coming off the knee injury, and got in his head.

"You don't do what he did, getting big hits in the World Series after missing the whole year, if you don't have great natural ability."

As such, I think Schwarber would be a lock to hit 40 home runs in the Bronx, while giving the Yankees the most fearsome lineup in baseball.

And here's the thing: with their monster bullpen and a stable of high-ceiling starting-pitching prospects, they can afford to give up Betances and Adams.

Such a deal probably would make it more likely that Chad Green remains in the bullpen, but that makes the most sense anyway after his stunning success as a reliever last season.

In that case, Green, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman would form the nucleus for bullpen dominance, and Cashman is also high on some younger relievers _ particularly Ben Heller _ that he wanted Joe Girardi to use more down the division-race stretch last season.

And Betances, remember, is only two seasons away from reaching free agency.

Parting with Adams could be more difficult, primarily because while the Yankees seem to be loaded with young, hard-throwing starters, he's the only one expected to be major-league ready coming out of spring training next season.

But Cashman has indicated he'll add another starter now that he's out on Otani, whether it's bringing back CC Sabathia on a short-term deal or going for a younger free agent such as Alex Cobb.

In that case, the Yankees would still have a strong rotation to start next season, with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery forming a strong core, with fill-in types such as Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa back as well.

And while Adams has intriguing potential, allowing just 180 hits in 277 innings the last two seasons in the high minors, the Yankees could absorb trading him because they have several other high-ceiling prospects on the way.

Justus Sheffield, the 21-year old lefty who was part of the Andrew Miller trade, recently impressed scouts at the Arizona Fall League after pitching well in Double-A last season, and he could be ready for the big leagues by mid-summer.

The same could be said for Domingo Acevedo and Domingo German, and then there is Albert Abreu, the 22-year old right-hander acquired in the trade of Brian McCann to the Astros a year ago. One scout said Abreu was the best pitcher he saw in the Fall League.

Bottom line, the Yankees have the pitching depth in their system that allows them to make a big trade.

And Schwarber is the perfect fit.