Kyle Schwarber an imperfect fit for Boston Red Sox, but that’s a good problem to have for a top contender | Chris Cotillo


BOSTON -- The Red Sox made a clear statement with their acquisition of Kyle Schwarber late Thursday night. They plan to appreciate the talent now, then worry about the slugger’s position later.

No, Schwarber -- who has played left field in 487 of his 493 games in the field since 2016 -- is not a natural fit for the Red Sox, who have outfielders Alex Verdugo, Jarren Duran, Kiké Hernández and Hunter Renfroe already on their roster. But the chance to acquire an All-Star bat -- and a left-handed one, at that -- clearly intrigued Boston enough to make its first move of an active trade season.

Schwarber took baseball by storm in June, hitting 16 homers on the month, including 12 in a 10-game span from June 19 to 29. The longtime Cub seemed to pay off his one-year, $10 million deal with the Nats over the course of 30 days, serving as one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball while cementing himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League.

That’s what the Red Sox are hoping they’ll receive in Thursday’s deal for minor-league righty Aldo Ramirez. While the Yankees were busy getting Schwarber’s former teammate, Anthony Rizzo, the Sox were getting another World Series-winning Cub. And the move -- a creative and somewhat surprising one -- fit Chaim Bloom’s M.O., mostly because Schwarber looks like a square peg fitting into a round hole when it comes to Boston’s depth chart.

For now, according to a major-league source, the plan is to give Schwarber some work at first base (a position he has played only once in seven big-league seasons) while also having him play the outfield as well and see some time at designated hitter. On the surface, the Red Sox entered trade season with a clear need at first, where Bobby Dalbec has struggled all season and utility options Marwin Gonzalez and Danny Santana have failed to produce offensively. The Christian Arroyo experiment lasted only a few innings before he got hurt, and Franchy Cordero isn’t ready to be a full-time player. While Kansas City’s Carlos Santana, the Cubs’ (and now Yankees’) Rizzo and Miami’s Jesús Aguilar were cleaner fits, the Sox found a match for Schwarber instead, dealing a 20-year-old pitching prospect in Ramirez to Washington to complete a deal less than 17 hours before Friday’s deadline.

So Schwarber, who is on the injured list with a hamstring strain and likely won’t be ready to play until mid-August, joins the Red Sox without a position. Verdugo, despite his struggles as of late, is entrenched as the left fielder. Duran is getting some run in center, and on days he doesn’t play, Hernández (who also plays second base) is starting there. Renfroe has established himself as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.

Chalk this up as a good problem for the Red Sox to have. Manager Alex Cora, as he loves to do, can play the matchups and put his players in the best position possible to succeed. Could Schwarber become the full-time first baseman by the end of August? It’s possible. So could a demotion of Duran, who has hit just .147 through 11 big-league games. An outfield alignment of Schwarber, Verdugo and Renfroe with Hernández shifting to second base on a full-time basis would solve a lot of problems. But it would push Arroyo to a backup role and Duran back to Worcester.

Or, the Red Sox could get creative and work with a five-man outfield mix, mixing and matching their players depending on the opposing starter. Considering Schwarber might not be back until Aug. 15 -- two weeks before rosters expand to 28 players on Sept. 1 -- that’s a palatable option. Having a bunch of good players fighting for at-bats is a good thing, albeit inconvenient. And then there’s the possibility of a position player (Hernández, maybe?) being dealt before the clock strikes 4:00 on Friday afternoon.

The Red Sox didn’t give up one of their top young pitching prospects just to have Schwarber play sparingly over the final two months of a pennant race. But finding the slugger at-bats will be a fun challenge for Cora and Bloom, who now have a luxury piece they haven’t had all season.

Late Thursday night, a Sox executive wasn’t sure exactly where Schwarber would fit in. But within the walls of Fenway, that fact didn’t make the acquisition any less satisfying.

“We’re just happy to get him,” he said.

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