A comparison of free agents Brantley, Pederson and Schwarber

The hot stove buzz recently has focused on the Nationals looking at free agents Michael Brantley, Joc Pederson and Kyle Schwarber to take over the corner outfielder spot vacated by the departure of Adam Eaton.

This available spot will most likely be in left field, with Juan Soto moving to right field and Victor Robles staying in center field. All three of these potential signees bat left-handed and all three have played in a World Series in the last five seasons. Here is a rundown of the career numbers and accolades for each candidate:

Michael Brantley
LF (811 games), CF, RF, DH
33 years old
6-foot-2, 209 lbs.
Fort Pierce, Fla.
Bats left, throws left

11 seasons: Cleveland (10), Houston (2)
Four-time All-Star, Silver Slugger
2019 World Series runner-up
Finished third in 2014 AL MVP voting
Season most homers: 2018 (22)
.297/.354/.440
Career WAR: 30.4

Brantley-Catch-Left-Field-Astros-Sidebar.jpgBesides a hitter like George Springer, Brantley represents the cream of the crop the Nationals are looking for in a corner outfield spot. Batting left helps the lineup chemistry, coupled with his experience and ability to make contact in big moments. Not to mention he has been in big games and playoff moments several times. Brantley strikes out only .460 times per game (which makes that Daniel Hudson strikeout in 2019 World Series Game 7 even more amazing).

Brantley hit third or fourth in the Astros order in 124 out of 148 games (84 percent) in 2019. Batting third, he hit .322 with eight homers and 43 RBIs. Batting cleanup, Brantley hit .327 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs. His clutch stats are even more impressive from that season. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Brantley hit .361 with 11 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs, recording an on-base percentage of .435. The veteran outfielder has hit an astounding .322 with 26 homers and 279 RBIs in 1,028 high-leverage situations over the course of his career. Brantley has a career fielding percentage of .993 with only 15 errors in 2,188 chances.

Joc Pederson
OF (670 games), CF (412)
28 years old
6-foot-1, 220 lbs.
Palo Alto, Calif.
Bats left, throws left

Seven seasons with Dodgers
2015 All-Star
World Series: 2017, 2018, 2020
2020 World Series champion
36 homers in 2019
.230/.336/.470
Career WAR: 10.6

His career batting average doesn’t jump off the page, but in his last two full seasons of 2018 and 2019, Pederson recorded slugging percentages of .522 and .538, combining for a career-high 61 homers and 130 RBIs in nearly 300 games. Pederson has led off in the lower half of the order most of his career. In 748 career games, Pederson has led off in 257 games, batted seventh 70 games or hit eighth in 127 games. His high-leverage number is just a .185 batting average, but in medium leverage he has hit 65 homers with 129 RBIs and a .248 average. His 2020 exit velocity of 96 mph was exceptional. He strikes out 0.814 times per game. Pederson has a solid fielding percentage of .991 for his career, but his combined Outs Above Average for the past five seasons is minus-12. He has 10 career errors in 1,062 chances.

Kyle Schwarber
OF 463 games, LF 461 games
27 years old
6-foot-0, 225 lbs.
Middletown, Ohio
USA National Team
Bats left, throws right

Six seasons with the Cubs
38 homers in 2019
2016 World Series champion
.230/.336/.480
Career WAR: 5.4

Schwarber is also a career .230 hitter, but has slammed 121 homers and 279 RBIs over 551 games. His medium leverage is pretty good, too, hitting .248 with 42 homers and 93 RBIs in 439 games. He has hit .192 with 20 homers and 85 RBIs over 379 plate appearances in high-leverage situations. Schwarber has led off (98 games), hit second (87), fifth (95) or sixth (112) most in his career. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 2.2 for his career, striking out 1.07 times per game. Schwarber’s fielding percentage for his career is .987 with 13 errors in 687 chances. Manager Davey Martinez is familiar with Schwarber from coaching with the Cubs.

Of course, the Nats would love to get in the running for a player the caliber of Brantley. Even at 33, he would be the best choice to help protect players like Soto in the lineup and replace the clutch bat of the retired Howie Kendrick. But if Brantley is not available, general manager Mike Rizzo will make sure to find a way to grab one of these free agent bats - or another not mentioned - so the offense can match the starting pitching as a strength heading into the 2021 season. Rizzo will not leave the free agent party without a dance partner.

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