The Yankees have three club option decisions to make this offseason, and two are painfully obvious. Robinson Cano‘s $14M option will be picked up while Damaso Marte‘s $4M option will not. That’s the easy part. The third decision may not be so cut and dry, but that’s entirely based on fan perception. Some people like Nick Swisher, who can be retained for $10.25M next season, and some people don’t. It works like that for literally every player. However, because of Swisher’s third consecutive awful postseason in pinstripes, there’s some belief that the Yankees would be better off parting ways with their right fielder of the last three years.
I’m not here to debate Swisher’s merits, but rather explain that no matter what side of the argument you fall on (like him or hate him), the obvious move is to exercise the option. Let’s break it down…
If You Like Him
This will be short and easy. Swisher’s incredibly productive (.358+ wOBA in five of the last six years, never fewer than 21 HR) and also incredibly durable (150+ games played in each of the last six seasons). By no means is his defense great, but it’s better than he gets credit for. His range-heavy +2.8 UZR over the last three seasons is a tick above-average and basically middle of the pack among all right fielders. Well-above-average offense and average defense plus durability equals a really valuable player, especially on a one-year deal that would pay him less than he’d get on the open market.
If You Don’t Like Him
I honestly don’t care why anyone dislikes any player, we all have our reasons. Could be his personality, could be the playoff performance, could be the batting average, doesn’t matter to me. Even if you think they should get rid of Swisher, the reason you pick up the option is so you can trade him. He still has value, quite a bit of it, and they shouldn’t just give that away (for two draft picks, which are worth something but not a ton) because of the ALDS. The Yankees pulled this exact trick with Gary Sheffield after the 2006 season, shipping him the Tigers for three minor league arms.
What could the Yankees get for Swisher? Who knows. The best comparable I can come up with is Josh Willingham, another bat-first corner outfielder that was traded one year before free agency. The Nationals received a Triple-A ready center fielder (Corey Brown) and a big league ready reliever (Henry Rodriguez) in the trade, two guys that Baseball America ranked as the 12th and 13th best prospects in Oakland’s system before the season. Decent return, nice deal for a rebuilding team.
Sheffield and Matt Holliday also fit the “corner outfielder traded one year before free agency mold,” but Sheffield was old and broken down at the time of the trade and Holliday is just straight up better than Swisher. They aren’t great comparisons. Neither is David DeJesus, who fits the narrative but is an inferior player to Swisher. Willingham seems to be the best fit. Two Grade-B prospects are better than two draft picks, which is why the Yankees should pick up the option and trade him rather than just decline the option if they don’t want him around.
* * *
Remember, it’s a $10.25M option with a $1M buyout, so the net value is just $9.25M. You all know what I think; the Yankees should just keep Swisher because they’re not going to beat his production at that price (in terms of dollars and years). If you think they should go separate ways though, at least recognize that they’d be better off exercising the option and trading him rather than outright declining it.