Former Cub Frank Schwindel has reportedly signed a deal with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s NPB. Schwindel had been playing for the Águilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Winter League. Sung Min Kim had previously tweeted that the two parties were discussing a deal, and Cibaeñas general manager Ángel Ovalles recently told reporters that the 30-year-old had signed with the Buffaloes and was leaving the team.
Designated for assignment in July 2021 by Oakland, Schwindel was picked up by Chicago and immediately sent to Triple-A Iowa. However, after Anthony Rizzo was traded to the Yankees, Schwindel received a call-up and never looked back. During the second half of the 2021 season, he slashed a robust .342/.389/.613, with a strong 15% strikeout rate, 6.7% walk rate, and 13 homers in 239 plate appearances. This tremendous output, albeit in a limited sample size, earned him minor consideration in the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Schwindel opened the 2022 season with the Cubs but struggled and was shuffled between Iowa and Chicago. He also missed time with lower back strains in May and June. His poor performance led to the Cubs designating him for assignment in mid-September, and he was granted his unconditional release. Schwindel finished the 2022 season hitting .229/.277/.358 with eight homers in 292 plate appearances. Notably, his strikeout rate increased to 19.9%.
With a poor 2022, Schwindel might have been hard-pressed to find anything beyond a minor league deal with an MLB team this winter. Instead, the right-handed hitter will head to Japan in search of the magic he captured during the 2021 season. With the Buffaloes, he will likely earn more guaranteed money and ample opportunity to rediscover his swing, perhaps eventually exploring a return to North American baseball.