Earlier this afternoon, Bob Nightengale of USA Today unleashed a panic amongst the members of the Yankee Universe. “The Yankees,” he Tweeted, “ever so quietly, are letting teams know that RF Nick Swisher is available.”
Nick Swisher! Available! Oh no! With just 87 characters, Nightengale created an uproar. Our inboxes started filling up with e-mails from RAB readers wondering if this rumor had any merit to it while Ben Nicholson-Smith at MLBTR wrote it up. Would the Yankees, already down a left fielder and a designated hitter, dare sell off Nick Swisher this off-season as well?
Of course, Swisher isn’t for sale, but debunking this rumor and contextualizing it isn’t that simple. It never is, and with the advent of the Internet, parsing rumors has grown more difficult. Let’s take this one for a ride though.
First, we must consider the source. Nightengale, a long-time vet of the Gannett daily, has a penchant rivaling that of Jon Heyman for conflating interest with a definite rumor. Here, he is taking a tidbit that isn’t quite news and spinning it into a secretive, hey-look-at-what-the-Yankees-are-doing item. That’s a clear warning sign that something is amiss.
Next, we must consider the nature of the rumor. What exactly are the Yankees doing? Well, they’re supposedly letting teams know that Nick Swisher can be had for a price. Is that news? I don’t think it is. Swisher is coming off of a rebound year in which he put up a 30.9 VORP. He is due $6.75 million in 2010 and $9 million in 2011, making him one of the more tradeable veterans on the Yanks. Of course, the team will solicit offers for him.
And that brings me to my next point. Third, we must consider what it means to be “available.” When a player is made available, it does not betray any interest on the Yanks’ part to see him shipped away. Rather, when a player is “available,” the Yankees expect other teams to put forward what they feel are reasonable proposals for this player. Without any insider knowledge, in fact, I believe this is how the Yankees acquired Swisher last year. The White Sox made him available; the Yankees made a low ball offer; Kenny Williams accepted; and the rest is history.
Beyond Swisher, though, the Yankees — and 29 other teams — generally make everyone available. Why not? Sometimes, a great trade comes along when teams aren’t actively shopping the player but when other teams know that potential trading partners are open to the idea of a trade. As far as the Yanks are concerned, the only players on the team who are not or should not be available include Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Mark Teixiera, CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Jesus Montero. Maybe we could add Jorge Posada and A.J. Burnett to make it a Gang of 10, but for the right price, anyone is tradeable.
In the end, this rumor isn’t about the Yanks’ faith or potential lack thereof in Nick Swisher. It’s not about their plans to leave themselves with a projected Opening Day outfield of Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson. It’s about exploring options and not closing the door on a move that has the potential to make the team better. Odds are good that Nick Swisher will be in right field in April, but if he isn’t, then it’s because his departure made the team better. And that’s what it means to be available.