At MLBTR last night, Tim linked to a post by Ken Davidoff – blogging MVP of the GM Meetings – mentioning that the Yanks & ChiSox have had “extremely preliminary” talks about former Moneyball draft pick Nick Swisher. The soon-to-be 28 yr old is coming off the poorest season of his young career, a season in which he hit just .219-.332-.410 in nearly 500 at-bats. With strong competition expected for Mark Teixeira’s services, Swish represents a possible Plan B for a first base.
Carlos Quentin & Jermaine Dye are locked into Chicago’s corner outfield spots, and Paul Konerko & Jim Thome fill the first base & DH spots, meaning Swish is seemingly a man without a position. Even though he could play centerfield in a pinch, he’s not equipped to man that spot on a full-time basis. He’s played first more than any other position in his career, committing just 10 errors in over 1,660 total chances (.994 fielding %) at the first sack.
Despite the down season, Swish still did what he does best in 2008: get on base. His 82 walks were good for eighth in the league, and he led the majors by a significant margin with 4.51 pitches seen per plate appearance. Take a second to get your head around that number. Never one to hit for a high average, Swish’s line drive rate (20.9%) was the best of his career in 2008, but his .251 BABIP was a career low, suggesting that his .219 batting average may have been the product of some plain ol’ bad luck. His IsoP was down a touch to .191, but he still managed to send 24 balls into the people. A switch-hitter, Swish hits for more pop from the left side, but hits for a higher avg from the right.
Drafted one pick after Scott Kazmir and one pick before Cole Hamels in 2002, Swisher’s tool set is still a desirable one despite the down year. More athletic than he looks, Swish’s defense doesn’t compare to Teixeira’s, but he’s very good at first and adequate at the three outfield spots. Anyone who saw him during his time in Oakland knows he’s a great clubhouse guy (I didn’t see him much with the Sox, so I can’t speak to that), always the first one on the top step to high-five a teammate after a big hit. He would provide the Yanks a great deal of roster flexibility, capable of staying in the lineup at another position if, say Juan Miranda gets hot for two weeks.
So what would it take to get Mr. Swisher? I have no frickin’ idea. Kenny Williams is rumored to be on the lookout for a centerfielder/leadoff hitter, and presumably pitching. Johnny Damon might be a candidate to head to the South Side, but that would open up a hole in the outfield to fill a hole on the infield. A straight one-for-one deal is unlikely. Swisher’s contract is reasonable (he’s locked up for $21.05M total over the next three years w/ a $10.25M option or $1M buyout for 2012), and unlike Xavier Nady this summer, the Yanks would be buying low on the former Ohio State star.
Teixeira might be the sexy name, but Swish offers the same on-base skills from both sides of the plate while still providing a good amount of power and above-avg defense, all without the hassle of Scott Boras and a nine-figure contract negotiation. He hasn’t been on the disabled list since a shoulder issue sidelined him for three weeks during his rookie season, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that he has a plus-plus girlfriend. What do you think, seems like Swish would be a solid buy-low candidate, right?