With free agents looming, Swisher just the beginningBy
Over the next few days and weeks, we’ll burn a lot of pixels talking about CC Sabathia, but that’s one free agent signing that will wrap itself up quickly. In reality, it boils down to Sabathia. Either he will play for the Yankees because they will out-bid everyone or he doesn’t want to play in New York. It’s that simple.
There’s another free agent — number one on Keith Law’s list — who probably won’t sign until the end of December. For a while, this player seemed destined to the Yankees, but with the acquisition today of Nick Swisher, many are assuming that the Yanks won’t be that interested in Mark Teixeira. In my opinion, that is simply not the case.
Swisher was the first salvo the Yanks fired off in the Hot Stove League, but he will be just the first piece in an off-season of moves. Now, there is no doubt that Nick Swisher fills a Yankee need. A one-time first-round draft pick, Swisher will be 28 come opening day, and while his numbers seemed down last year, he has the ability to hit 20-30 home runs a season. He’s also a master at getting on base.
Beyond that, Swisher is both an outfielder and a first baseman. The Yanks, looking to get younger and more athletic, could use Swisher at first and eschew signing Mark Teixeira or Adam Dunn. But perhaps, they’ll opt to use Swisher in the outfield, replacing the 35-year-old Bobby Abreu with Swisher.
In that regard, Mark Teixeira makes total sense, and a team in a position the Yanks are in would have a tough time turning down a player of Teixeira’s caliber. The switch-hitting first baseman will be 29 on Opening Day, making him two baseball seasons younger than Jason Giambi was when he signed with the Yanks in 2001. Meanwhile, Teixeira has a career line of .290/.378/.541, and he’s shown he can hit outside of Texas.
With his Gold Glove-caliber defense, Teixeira is, to borrow a phrase from Buster Olney, the perfect fit for a Yankee team looking to get younger and more athletic while keeping up a relentless pace of high-OBP players. A heart of the order with Teixiera, A-Rod, Posada and Swisher would be potent indeed.
Meanwhile, Keith Law brings up an interesting point in his ESPN free agent run down. Since Teixeira is so young, if he were to sign a six-year deal, when he next becomes a free agent after his age 34 season, he could then sign another substantial contract. It would be more beneficial for Scott Boras and Teixeira to take a six-year deal than it would be for them to push for an eight- or ten-year contract.
Even if the Yanks opt to let Teixeira go, they have another 1B/OF option to pursue as well. Adam Dunn, despite the deceptively low batting average, would fit right in as well. He’s not the defender Teixeira is, and he’s not quite as athletic as Swisher. But he is, however, a beast at the plate. His career OPS+ of 130 is just slightly lower than Teixeira’s 134 mark. He hasn’t hit fewer than 40 home runs since his injury-shortened 2003 campaign, and despite the low batting average and high strike-out numbers, he gets on base a whopping 38.1 percent of the time. For those keeping score at home, that’s actually slightly higher than Teixeira’s career OBP.
Clearly, the Yankees have options. At a time when the team has more holes to fill than they’ve had in recent years, the free agent crop is particularly lush this year. While Nick Swisher is a great start, he’s far from the final answer. While the Yanks may not seem like they need Mark Teixeira or even Adam Dunn now, we’ll see what happens when the dust settles. Meanwhile, forty-five minutes ago, as of this writing, the free agent gates were unleashed. The fun is just beginning.