Looking ahead to 2013: The Bossman cometh?

Johnny Damon and the shadow of 3000
Michael Pineda's First Day
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty)

I need to preface this post by saying that I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m a huge Nick Swisher fan, and assuming he turns in a fourth straight 120-plus wRC+ offensive campaign in pinstripes this coming season, I’d expect the Yankees to look to retain the pending free agent’s services on a multi-year deal. So long as his contract requirements remain within reason, anyway.

By “within reason,” I’d say anywhere from the three-year, $21 million ($7M average annual value) deal personal favorite Josh Willingham signed with the Twins this winter (which still seems like the steal of the offseason) to Michael Cuddyer’s three-year, $31.5 million deal ($10.5 million AAV) with the Rockies. However, since breaking into the league in 2004, Swish has been the superior all-around player by a not insignificant margin, and being that he’ll be two years younger than Cuddyer was this past offseason he definitely has a case for a bigger deal than Cuddyer’s, and a strong case for a bigger contract than Willingham’s sweetheart deal. Between his apparent superiority to these similar players and the fact that this will be his first foray into free agency, I’d expect him to start out at the very least looking for something that will pay him $13 million a year.

Given the incredible value the Yankees have gotten out of Swisher thus far — since 2009, Swish has been paid $21.2 million for his services by the Yankees, and according to FanGraphs’ $/WAR calculation, has been worth $47.6 million — $13 million seems like an eminently reasonable ask; however, at the end of the day I’d expect length to be a bigger sticking point than AAV. As an outfielder coming off his age 31 season next winter, one has to think Swish will be looking for enough financial security to take him as close to the end of his career as possible. I could see his initial ask starting at five years, but I don’t see the Yankees being interested in committing any more than three years to their switch-hitting right fielder. Maybe they’d go to four, but I’m not sure I’d expect the Yankees to hand out a four-plus-year contract to an outfielder on the wrong side of 30 that isn’t named Curtis Granderson, who — barring an unforeseen precipitous decline in production — the team will be looking to re-sign after 2013.

So, in the event that the Yankees and Nick Swisher can’t arrive at a happy medium next winter, the Bombers may in fact be finding themselves in the market for a right fielder. Enter B.J. Upton, slated to be a free agent for the first time in his career next offseason. As an outside observer, it seems as though the Rays have been waiting for Upton — the second overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft — to become the superstar many predicted he’d blossom into forever.

I asked noted Rays fan Jason Collette, of Baseball Prospectus and DRaysBay fame, for some color on this notion, and he was kind enough to respond with the following:

BJ will always leave a portion of this fanbase wanting. There’s a portion of this fanbase that finds Upton to be an unmotivated and lazy waste of talent that the Rays need to move. There’s a portion that is disappointed with him but are holding out hope that 2012 is a lot like 2007. There’s a portion that appreciates him for what he is rather than what he is not. I think he could go 30/30 in Yankee Stadium given his best swings are when he goes the other way, but he is never hitting .300 again without some serious BABIP help. He goes through hot streaks that are really hot and then slumps for long periods at a time while tinkering with his swing. He made some changes with his legkick late in the season over the final 6 weeks that yielded positive results, so it bears watching. There is a level of A.J. Burnett hate with him with a portion of this fanbase that sees nothing wrong with booing him after a strikeout or when he’s thrown out on the basepaths. However, there is a larger portion that will miss him when he leaves and hopes that he does not hang around the American League to blossom as it is tough enough to watch Carl Crawford do the same for Boston. In the end, he always leaves fans wanting something; the degree of that want comes from each fans attitude toward Upton.

Upton was drafted as a shortstop back in ’02, but was an unmitigated disaster at the position, and despite posting a respectable .323 wOBA as a 19-year-old in 177 plate appearances in 2004, his defensive woes helped demote him to AAA Durham for the entirety of the 2005 season. Upton didn’t make it back to the bigs until August 1, 2006, but he struggled mightily (.275 wOBA in 189 PAs) while playing third base, a position he’d never played professionally prior to that season.

At the outset of the 2007 season, Upton was shifted to second base to start the season, with the idea that he could play anywhere from second to short to third to the outfield on any given day. Upton responded to his first camp-breaking with the Rays by exploding out of the gate, posting a .471 wOBA in April 2007, and ultimately finishing the year with a career-high .387 wOBA (138 wRC+), shifting into center field full-time and seemingly finally establishing himself as the offensive force everyone had been waiting for. Only it didn’t last.

Upton followed his monster 2007 with a good (.354 wOBA, 118 wRC+), but disappointing 2008, given the new baseline he’d established the year prior. Upton’s OBP was still monstrous (.383, after .386 in 2007), but his power mysteriously vanished, and his slugging dropped over 100 points to .401. Upton continued his slide in 2009, falling to a below-average .310 wOBA (88 wRC+), which was easily his worst full season in the bigs. Upton has since recovered a decent amount of his value, posting near-identical 2010 (.337 wOBA, 113 wRC+) and 2011 (.337 wOBA, 115 wRC+) campaigns while providing above-average defense in center, though his erratic performances these last several seasons have rendered Upton’s true talent level something of an enigma.

One aspect of Upton’s game that would undoubtedly be very appealing to the Yankees is his ability to draw walks. Upton has a career 11.2% walk rate, well above league average. His career OBP is a respectable .342; however, the reason it’s not higher is because Upton also has a propensity to strike out. A lot. Upton’s career K% is 24.8%, and his 25.2% K% was the fifth-worst in the AL last season. His strikeouts have dramatically suppressed a batting average (career .258) that one would expect to be a good bit higher for someone with a carer BABIP of .327. Upton also has a career 11.3% HR/FB%, also an above-average rate, and the high BABIP and HR/FB% show that when Upton does put a bat on the ball, good things tend to happen. Unfortunately this isn’t as common as an occurrence as one would hope. Perhaps there’s something in Upton’s swing that Kevin Long can fix?

Upton would also probably be the best defensive right fielder the Yankees would hypothetically have fielded since perhaps Raul Mondesi, and an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Upton seems like it would be hands-down the finest defensive outfield in the game. The dropoff in offensive production from Swisher to Upton would be fairly substantial, but not massive (Swish is a 117 career wRC+ hitter; Upton 110), while Upton would make a lot of the difference up in fielding.

Upton’s patient/hacker dichotomy — his 3.86 pitches seen per plate appearance (P/PA) ranked 31st in the AL last season, ahead of the likes of Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez, among others, while his swinging strike percentage of 20% that was the 4th-highest in the league, and well above the 15% league average — is somewhat reminiscent of Curtis Granderson’s, although Grandy led the league in P/PA in 2011 and recorded a 16% swinging strike percentage.

Given his abilities I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the 27-year-old Upton’s (turning 28 in August) best-case-scenario is blossoming into modern-day Curtis Granderson — if you compare the first five years of each player’s career, the results are remarkably similar, with one elite season early on followed by some good — though not great — subsequent campaigns. Upton’s got the edge in OBP, though Granderson certainly has the edge in power. Some may argue that Upton’s running out of time to get there, but his 2007 shows that it’s not crazy to envision him finally putting it all together on a consistent basis as he enters the prime of his career, similar to the way Granderson turned in a career year in his age 30 season.

The parallels between Granderson and Upton become even more apparent when you look at their WAR graphs:


Source: FanGraphsCurtis Granderson, B.J. Upton

And cumulative by age:


Source: FanGraphsCurtis Granderson, B.J. Upton

Also, for those curious about the righty Upton’s splits, while he unsurprisingly hits lefties better (career 118 wRC+), he’s playable against righties (101 wRC+).

So after all of this analysis, we haven’t even answered perhaps the most important question — how much will Upton be looking for, and what can he reasonably expect to be offered? Unfortunately for B.J., as a career .339 wOBA hitter, it seems unlikely he’d see anything close to the mega-deal his former teammate Carl Crawford signed prior to the 2011 season, as Carl has been the superior player (not to mention a massive disappointment one year into his monster Boston contract); although to play devil’s advocate, Carl’s career wOBA was only .008 points higher than Upton’s at the time of his free agency, so perhaps I’m selling Upton a bit short. Upton is making $7 million in his final year as a Ray, and will obviously look to exceed that on an annual basis.

With teams seemingly increasingly shy to commit mega dollars and years to anyone outside of elite talent, it seems like a stretch to see anyone signing Upton for longer than five years, and given his erratic offensive play, I’m not sure he’s worth more than $10-$12 million a year (although FanGraphs’ $/WAR valuation has him worth an average of $17.3 million over the last five years).

Upton will probably start out asking for something like seven years and $105 million ($15M AAV), but I’d ultimately expect him to end up signing for something closer to five years, $60 million — which, if the Yanks can’t agree to terms with Swish, should very seriously consider Upton if his price does fall to this range — unless he has another year like 2007 in him in 2012. In that case, all bets are off.

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Johnny Damon and the shadow of 3000
Michael Pineda's First Day
  • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

    On an unrelated note Kei Igawa likes the USA if a team signs him who is it?

    • Wesley Pipes

      Orioles.

    • Plank

      I’m guessing he doesn’t sign anywhere, but Padres.

    • Slugger27

      Of all the things to go off topic with… kei fuckin igawa??

      • Robinson Tilapia

        This is all Jeremy Lin’s fault.

        • mike

          funny

  • Cris Pengiucci

    There’s an “Off Topic” button towards the top of the page for comments like that. And some appropriately placed punctuation never hurts.

  • Tampa Yankee

    As someone who has been down here the entire length of Upton’s career with the Rays, I do have so admit I’ve envisioned him in pinstripes for sometime when the Yanks were struggling to find their next great CF. I also think that Upton gets a bad rap sometimes down year. Yes, he has made some head scratching blunders but the majority of the Rays fans issues revolve around his batting average (no seriously you should here the idiotic fans down here).

    I also think Upton has seen what the org did in giving these long-term team friendly deals early in the careers of guys like Crawford, Baldelli, Moore, Longo, etc and since he never got that type of contract and the team always seemed to be ok with going year-to-year he took that personally as if the org did want to try and build around him like the others. I think change of venue will do wonders for this guy and if talks with Swish break down, I’d love to sign him.

    • Plank

      I always read about how he’s such a headcase. He get’s painted with the same brush as Milton Bradley and Nyjer Morgan (I wonder where that comes from.) It’s preposterous.

      I was reading about the charity It Gets Better the other day and Upton delivered a video message for them. He seems like a great guy, and his numbers are definitely enough for me to want him in pinstripes.

      • Ted Nelson

        You determined someone is a great guy from a video clip?

        • Plank

          I think his public perception isn’t accurate because of how he chooses to spend his free time. Do you have a reason to think he isn’t a great guy?

          • Ted Nelson

            I don’t know what kind of guy he is. My point is mostly that appearances can be deceiving. Not really trying to say anything about Upton, just generally that I wouldn’t take too much away from what kind of person someone is from one meeting whether virtual or in person. I happen to work with a guy who comes across very well when you meet him, but anyone who knows him would call him a total headcase and it definitely impacts his work. I think that’s fairly common. Not that Upton is that kind of guy, just that he could be and still come across very well on a charity video.

            Also implying a little that his baseball related “intangibles” might not be so much about whether he does charity work and is a good person as temperament, work ethic, etc. If people are questioning his mental make-up it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s unstable like Milton Bradley. A lot of people would call Bradley, AJ Burnett, Zack Greinke, John Rocker, A-Rod, Bonds, etc. headcases for reasons that aren’t entirely related. If he’s a headcase who performs, I don’t really care. If there’s something leading people to believe he’s underperforming or a risk to underperform in the future for some “off-field” reason… that I find more interesting.

            • Plank

              My point is not only can appearances be deceiving, but when there are appearances, they are positive ones. BJ Upton chose to spend his free time doing charity work. He gets shit on in the press for no apparant reason (I think he got called lazy for not running out a grounder once and it stuck), but that’s not backed up by anything. The opposite (that he’s not a bad guy) is backed up by his actions (charity work.)

              • Robinson Tilapia

                It may, or may not, matter one bit, but I think an MLB player filming an “It Gets Better” video is a very awesome thing to do.

                • Plank

                  Where is the Yankees video like this? The Rays, Red Sox, Giants, Cubs, Phillies, and maybe more teams already filmed them.

                  I smell a letter writing campaign.

                  • Robinson Tilapia

                    More than one way to give back. Not judging on the lack of a video.

                  • Plank

                    This is what I’m talking about by the way.

                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce-PB9mWEYQ

                    • Robinson Tilapia

                      I have most streaming video blocked at work, but thanks for trying to share anyway.

                    • G

                      Haha poor Johnny can’t even get 3 words out to start the video.

              • Ted Nelson

                What I’m saying is how do you know what the media’s accusations are based on? The only interaction you’ve listed with the guy is a video clip. They could be baseless, or they could be from… you know… actually talking to Upton, his teammates, and his coaches on a daily basis.

                As far as charity… Marbury did his whole cheap shoes thing, and I still think in terms of athletes the guy is a headcase.

                • Plank

                  The only interaction you’ve listed with the guy is a video clip. They could be baseless, or they could be from… you know… actually talking to Upton, his teammates, and his coaches on a daily basis.

                  So you think BJ Upton isn’t supportive of suicidal teens not committing suicide? Yes, that’s the only bit of information I have about his character, but it’s a strong bit of information. Based on that, I would say he’s a good guy. I’m sorry if you disagree.

                  • Ted Nelson

                    I was really trying to let by-gones be by-gones with you… but this is ridiculous.

                    I have specifically said I have no idea about BJ Upton.

                    I have also said that being a good guy has little to do with being a headcase. And doing one good thing does not make you a good guy. That’s it. That’s all I’m saying. If you think first impressions and single actions are the way to judge someone’s character overall or as it relates to baseball… good luck with that philosophy.

                    • Plank

                      Why do you think he’s a headcase? Or were you just arguing for the sake of arguing?

                    • Ted Nelson

                      Are you serious? How many times have I said I have no idea if Upton is a headcase?

                      I am not arguing. I am telling you that appearances can be deceiving and terrible people can do public service announcements for good causes. If you disagree with the overwhelming evidence in support of that and think one public service announcement makes a guy you have no experience dealing with a good guy… good for you.

                    • Plank

                      Amazing.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      There we definitely agree.

                    • Plank

                      I disagree.

                    • the Other Steve S.

                      Plank, stop feeding this idiot

                    • Plank

                      I can’t help it. I just make comments. People reply and I reply to them. It’s a vicious cycle. I never intend to get into this kind of ridiculousness with him, it’s just the natural course of events.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      I am the idiot… interesting theory.

                • Ted Nelson

                  I’m not at all trying to say that Upton isn’t a good guy. I’m saying I don’t know, but I don’t think one video proves anything. Good gesture, but one good gesture doesn’t make you a good guy… and even being a good person doesn’t mean you have a good mental make-up for baseball.

                  • Plank

                    He’s painted as a negative presence. I have an automatic reaction to discount that kind of media character assessment directed at black baseball players. I ran across a video of him doing something really special and positive, so I concluded that I think he’s a good guy. That’s the only direct evidence I have, positive or negative. Again, sorry if you think he’s not a good guy or if you think he has some deep character flaws that will inhibit his baseball playing ability. I also apologize if you think I formed an opinion of him too early for your liking.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      Have you ever met BJ Upton? How much time have you spent with him? Do you know anyone who has met BJ Upton?

                    • Plank

                      I haven’t. Again, I’m sorry if my thinking he’s a good guy doesn’t meet your burden of proof.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      It doesn’t meet any logical burden of proof…

                    • Plank

                      Please describe the logical burdens of proof for me thinking he’s a good guy. I’d love to be enlightened on this issue.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      I’ve been explaining it to you for hours now…

                      More than one semi-relevant data point.

                      Suppose all I saw of both Kim Jong Il and Mother Teresa or of Robert Mugabe and Ghandi was one public service announcement on a worthy cause. I would be woefully misdirected to conclude that they are both equally good people. You can’t draw any logical conclusion off one data point.

                      I really don’t care if Upton is a good, bad, or mediocre guy… so that’s all I really care to say.

                    • Plank

                      Something something something … strawman … something something something.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      Your contention is honestly that you can judge how good of a person someone is based on one video? One video it’s pretty likely the PR department organized on a fairly non-controversial issue that kids shouldn’t kill themselves? That’s really what you’re saying and I am strawmanning you by pointing out the obvious fact that one data point is not something you should make a general rule of drawing conclusions from?

                      Don’t know why I waste my time trying to talk sense into you.

                    • Plank

                      Suppose all I saw of both Kim Jong Il and Mother Teresa or of Robert Mugabe and Ghandi was one public service announcement on a worthy cause. I would be woefully misdirected to conclude that they are both equally good people. You can’t draw any logical conclusion off one data point.

                      That was your justification for saying I’m wrong to think that BJ Upton is a good guy. BJ Upton isn’t Kim, Mugabe, Theresa, or Ghandi. He’s a good baseball player who did a good thing.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      Are you really serious? That’s really your understanding of what I said?

                      Try to stay with me if you can. One data point does not prove anything. That was my explanation of WHY one data point does not prove anything. I was trying to be a nice guy and explain it to you. In response you threw a little hissy fit.

                      I used those people to stick with the relevant example of a public service video. You can use any example you’d like. Here’s another one for you… see if you get this one. I watch the last few innings of an Ohio State baseball game, not knowing anything about any of their players. I see one time through the line-up. Two guys hit HRs. Do I assume they are both HR hitters?

                      Do I assume Joe Maddon, Sean Rodriguez, Upton, etc. are all good guys from that video? I think it’s reasonable to assume known of them want LGBT kids killing themselves. Even that’s not totally conclusive… but it’s a pretty fair assumption. Going from that to they are good people or they aren’t headcases, though… that’s a huge stretch.

                    • Plank

                      I used those people to stick with the relevant example of a public service video.

                      I would love to see the Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe, Mother Theresa, or Ghandi public service videos. You obviously brought up those names to obfuscate the issue. BJ Upton is a baseball player who made a video about teen bullying and suicide. That’s a good thing to do. That’s as deep as it gets.

                      Going from that to they are good people or they aren’t headcases, though… that’s a huge stretch.

                      I guess it’s good that no one did that then. Who said anything about headcases. Again, Strawman.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      You said headcase. You. That was your first point. If you’re going to say things and then turn around and deny them, how can we discuss anything. It’s right here. There’s a record of what you’ve said. Why lie?

                      “I always read about how he’s such a headcase.”

                      You. You said that. You refute the claim that he’s a headcase with being in a video with like 5 other dudes.

                      I was bringing up those names to teach you. Since you clearly have a lot to learn. They are supposed to be extreme examples to illustrate the point that one data point proves nothing. You can insert any name you’d like. And if you don’t think Il, Mugabe, Ghandi, and Mother Teresa all spoke/speak out on important issues of public concern… I don’t know what to tell you.

                    • Plank

                      How do Adolph Hitler, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Pol Pot, and Aung San Suu Kyi help you educate me toward my feelings toward the centerfielder for the Rays, though? Please tell me more.

                      I thought I was just giving my opinion on my impression of the disparity of how he is portrayed by the beat writers in Tampa and what he actually does, but apparently, I was doing much more.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      Are you really asking that? Your whole theory is that one act makes him a good person. My counter-point is that even the most terrible people in the world perform good acts from time to time. I don’t know if it would be sadder if you don’t get it or if you get it but choose to spend your time screwing with me.

                      I thought all I was doing was pointing out to you how illogical your point was… Yeah, that is all I was doing. It is very possible that he’s a total headcase portrayed correctly by the media. It’s also possible he’s portrayed totally incorrectly. My point is that one good act does not prove which is true.

                    • Plank

                      Your whole theory is that one act makes him a good person. My counter-point is that even the most terrible people in the world perform good acts from time to time.

                      My ‘whole theory’ is that I think BJ Upton is probably a good dude because I saw him doing something good. Again, if you disagree, I’m sorry for that. If you want to attach greater meaning to what I think and attack that, I feel sorry for you.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      You feel sorry that I am smart enough to realize that one good act does not make someone a “good dude?”

                    • Plank

                      I was reading about the charity It Gets Better the other day and Upton delivered a video message for them. He seems like a great guy, and his numbers are definitely enough for me to want him in pinstripes.

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  I can give you a closer-to-home example than Starbury: How much money did Alex Rodriguez give the Children’s Aid Society? There are full health clinics in NYC schools built with A-Rod’s money, and look at what people still say about him.

                  Not a reflection on anything either of you are saying.

          • G

            Don’t even try to argue with him man, he got a 720 on the English section of the SAT.

            You can’t win.

            • Plank

              My favorite part of this episode was how he said this was his attempt at letting “by-gones be by-gones.” Truly the mark of a 720 right there–or at Ted Nelson would say ‘write their’.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          “seems like”, not “is”. Judgement call on his part from a small sample of data.

          • Ted Nelson

            That’s semantics… I should have said you determined what a guy seems like based on a video clip? Same difference. My point is that there are plenty of people who put on a great face and are totally different in reality, just like there are plenty of people who give off a bad impression but are actually some degree of good. I don’t think a video clip speaks to much more than maybe someone’s public speaking ability.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Half this forum wanted to sign Yoenis Cespedes based on a video clip.

              • Ted Nelson

                I didn’t support that, and I also think it’s a false narrative. There were also plenty of positive accounts of his actual play floating around in the media. He’s been a pro in Cuba and on their national team for a long time. I find it very hard to believe that the video was the first time international scouts saw him.

                • Ted Nelson

                  Didn’t support it in terms of signing a guy based on a video… didn’t (don’t) really know enough about Yoenis to say what he’s worth.

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  I’m not talking international scouts. I’m talking your average RAB poster wanted to throw the checkbook at him. I assume scouts know what they’re talking about.

                  We’re on the same page here.

      • Sean in LA

        I dont touch Upton with a ten foot pole. I understand hes still young, but his low work ethic and his reported laziness is a huge turn off. His career AVG is .257 and has only hit 20 home runs twice. Swisher averages only .003 points lower on average, but also averages 10 more home runs and 26 less strike outs per 162 games. While Swisher’s no spring chicken, I’ll take his consistent 20+ home runs and .360+ OBP over Upton’s enigmatic and horribly inconsistent everything. Bottom line, I just like Swisher a lot more than Upton. An Upton contract would, 100% guaranteed, end in disaster.

        • Plank

          Low work ethic and laziness? Wow, it’s a wonder he’s even able to make it to the ballpark.

          Batting average? That’s your argument?

          An Upton contract would, 100% guaranteed, end in disaster.

          Fire and brimstone! Fire and brimstone! Cats and dogs living together! Mass Hysteria!!!

  • Robinson Tilapia

    The team has to figure that, even with some sort of budget constraints on the horizon, RF will be a position the team will have to invest money in and look outside the org for the forseeable future. I agree there’s a salary point that you let another team pay for Swisher’s decline, and that Upton would be as good an option as any to consider at this point in time.

  • JohnC

    So who is our number 1 target next offseason? Hamels or Upton?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Perhaps you should let some of the season play itself out?

      For shits and giggles, though, my guess, at this moment, is “neither.”

    • pat

      Hamels all day.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      If a choice has to be made, I’d guess Hamels, but maybe Nova, Hughes and Pineda look so good this season that things change.

      Hamels just seems to be more of a sure thing (if that really exists) than Upton. When Upton is “on”, he looks great, but the inconsistancy may give the team pause. Then again, if the contract is right (and if the Yankees don’t care to retain Swisher), who knows? It’s way to early to tell.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Ideally, you develop your own pitchers and let someone else put too much of their payroll into one guy. Easier said than done, but I’d love for the Yankees to finish 2012 feeling like they no longer need to dip into the FA market for a pitcher. Would LOVE it.

  • Reggie C.

    For BJ Upton to get anywhere near the AAV guessed in this piece, BJ Upton would have to deliver a Justin Upton level season.

    I just don’t see it happening in the all-important power dept even if BJ Upton managed to significantly drop the strikeout rate. Upton seems to always come up in trade rumors anyway so he might be dealing with another up-and-down season at the plate partly bc of these distractions.

    • fin

      Jason Werth disagrees.

  • Realist

    Upton! We have a pitching surplus especially if Hughes bounces back. Hell if I were Cashman I’d see what I could possibly get for Swisher at the trading deadline.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      1) Pitching surpluses tend to disappear as a season wears on.

      2) Trade Swisher at the deadline? Not expecting much out of this team, are you?

      • Realist

        Our minor league is stock full of pitching. So signing Cole Hamel isn’t a necessity as it was before the Pineda trade. Let’s be real with ourselves Nick Swisher isn’t going to make or break our World Series chances. If Granderson like trade was put on the table, I’d have no issue with Cashman jumping on it is my point. Not just trading him away for peanuts

        • Plank

          I’m just keeping it real, really. But for real, beyond Banuelos, there are no pitchers in the minors I would be comfortable saying will probably be good major league pitchers. Betances, Phelps, and Warren may, but that’s no sure thing. The other guys are too far away to be able to tell at this point. Really.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Nick Swisher is a vital part of this team in 2012. When he hypothetically gets traded to a contender in August (and, joy, maybe gets to play against the Yanks in the post-season), who steps in? That would be a double-loss.

          The Yankee MiLB isn’t stock-piled with pitching. There are probably two MLB-ready arms in AAA, one big-time prospect getting his first full season in AAA, and a still-high-upside enigma. Anyone other than that is either way too far away to ever count on or on the David Robertson track. While that’s nothing to complain about, we’re not talking an embarassment of riches. Even if it was such, chances are it all still wouldn’t work out.

          You might be trying to be a bit too much the “realist” here. :)

          • Ted Nelson

            I agree on Swisher. And on top of losing him without an obvious replacement… what are you getting? Realist talks about a Granderson return. Granderson is an offensive CF who had multiple seasons at a below market rate… Swisher is a good RF with 1/2 a season left before free agency at the deadline and older than Granderson was. If someone offers a good deal where they bring back the AJax immediate and long-term replacement plus more I hope the Yankees will consider… I just don’t see it as likely. Maybe some team gets really desperate and gives up on their Dominic Brown or whoever.

            The Yankees’ young pitching depth extends beyond the minors, though. Pineda, Nova, and Hughes are young MLB starters. CC is pretty prime aged for SPs the next few years. I agree that there’s no reason to make decisions this far in advance or even to do much speculating… but CC, Pineda, Nova, Hughes, Manny, Dellin, Phelps, Warren, Mitchell, Marshall, etc. is what I’d call an embarrassment of riches in terms of young pitchers.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              I’m probably guilty of not counting the guys already in the majors in my assessment.

    • Ted Nelson

      Who is going to replace Swisher and what are you going to get for him?

  • Plank

    I think they should let Swisher walk. I would rather have Upton’s ages 28-32 rather than Swisher’s ages 32-25. Especially considering Swisher will likely cost more.

    I always thought I was unrealistically high on Upton and have been told that several times, but after reading this, I don’t think I am.

    Another option would be to let Swisher walk, sign Upton, then the next offseason let Granderson walk and sign another corner outfielder. They can avoid Grandy’s and Swisher’s decline phase and get younger while staying the same talent-wise.

    • Bubba

      I am not as high on Swisher as most on this board, so I’m all for your plan.

    • Reggie C.

      I agree with this but at the end of the day I highly doubt Cashman goes the extra mile to sign Upton if it means he’s demanding a 100% increase in AAV. Best thing Upton can do for himself is show in 2012 that he’s capable of replicating 25 hr, 30 SB seasons, and dropping that horrid K rate to Swisher levels.

      • Plank

        I have no idea what your first sentence means. As to your second sentence, if he plays well next year, that would certainly be good for him.

    • Havok9120

      What younger, available corner outfielder are you talking about to replace Granderson’s production and Swisher’s decent-solid-good (depending on your bias) defense? I mean, I’ll be all for it if you can find me two younger versions of Swish/Grandy, but I’m not sure that they exist.

      • Plank

        Off the top of my head, I don’t know, but I’m certain there will be several big boppers who have a similar or better bat than Nick Swisher that offseason. There always are.

        • Havok9120

          But you’re not talking about replacing Swisher’s bat. You’re talking about replacing Granderson AND Swisher. BJ Upton does not equal Swisher’s production. He simply doesn’t. So you have to make up the rest of Swisher’s and then the Grandyman’s on top of that. The supply of “big boppers” that can step into a hole THAT big AND play RF aren’t as copious as you seem to be assuming. We can’t even find a DH this offseason, and while I realize that the situations aren’t exact (we’ll have more money to find a RFer), simply saying “I don’t know of anybody but I’m sure they exist,” does not make it true.

          As for that last jab at Swisher….no, no there aren’t. The guy has been very, very productive for us and has played pretty good right field defense for us to boot. Most major league teams don’t have that kind of player stockpiled in the minors. Most teams don’t have that kind of player ANYWHERE. Casually suggesting we find a “bigger right field bat” isn’t as simple as you seem to think, even IF we’re willing to let the defense degrade significantly, which not all of us are.

          • Plank

            Again, you are looking at his past performace. I would love to have that going forward, but Nick Swisher won’t be Nick Swisher going forward. He will be a lesser version of himself going forward.

            Obviously he will be hard to replace. He has been signed to a below market deal since he signed it while still under team control (ditto Granderson). Assuming both of them will both replicate their past production and do it at a similar price isn’t realistic.

            Since the Yankees don’t have any minor leaguers ready to step in, they are going to have to sacrifice in terms or payroll, production, or both (or pay more for their current level of production.) I’m not knocking Granderson or Swisher.

            • Plank

              Another way to say what I’m driving at is that staying the course isn’t always a good thing in baseball.

            • Havok9120

              Yes, I am looking at past performance. That’s all we’ve got. But even past performance, trending downward, puts both of them well above Upton’s career offensive output. I think Upton will figure it out at some point, but I still have to treat ’07 like a ceiling.

              I agree that Swish won’t be producing like 2010, or even 2009/2010, going into his age 35 season. But that’s not all we’re talking about. We have to not only replace him, but have someone to replace him with, and we don’t. What in Upton’s recent history gives you cause to believe he’ll outproduce age 33 Swisher? I don’t want to sell the rights to the Stadium for either, but Swish would seem like the better bet unless I’m totally missing something. Like, for instance, the Mystery Outfielder who’s going to come in and let us do all this shifting and replacing in the OF.

              • Plank

                Offensively, I think Swisher will be better, too. But if Upton shifted to CF after a year and they got a new RF (or Gardner and LF) then simply comparing their bats doesn’t work. Upton would be partially replacing Swisher then partially replacing Granderson. It’s easier to find a corner outfielder than a center fielder.

                I really feel like we are on the same page in terms of the abilities of the respective players. I would just like to see the Yankees not hold on to aging veterans because of what they have done in the past. Depending on 2012 and 2013, that may or may not be what happens with Swisher and Granderson.

                • Havok9120

                  Oh, we’re definitely on the same page ability-wise. No issue there. And I’m always itching to get younger with all our long contracts on the infield.

                  Granderson’s performance the next two years will also play heavily into this. If that power keeps up, HE might be the best option for that big bat corner outfielder. Grab Upton, shift him/Gardy into CF once Grandy can’t handle it and then go from there. Ideally Upton would figure it out too. I expect Granderson to come back to Earth a bit, but we’ll have to see how far. As people’ve been saying, until we see this next season from all the players involved its going to be hard to gauge what each of them will want/is worth.

                  • Plank

                    This is why I love baseball.

  • fin

    Way too many variables to figure out what the Yankees will do next off season. How well Hughes/Pineda and even Manny and Delin pitch, would go into their interest level in Hammels. Maybe if they sign Soler, Swisher becomes the right answer on a 3 yr deal while Soler develops. If they dont sign Soler or Soler doesnt live up to his potential this year in the minors, Upton could be a better bet in his prime years on a longer contract than Swisher at his age on a shorter contract.
    Not to mention it seems almost impossible to tell which team could jump in on any player and blow the field out of the water with a contract, making all the best laid plans useless. There could very well be a team that gives Upton a Werth type contract. With teams throwing around money now to elite players, its not impossible to see Hammels getting 180-200m, if he has another cy young caliber season.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      There’s no need to focus solely on Jorge Soler. Jorge Soler is a 19 year-old toolsy young outfielder. So are a handful of guys already in the Yankee system. I know he’s this week’s sexy bone to gnaw on, but let’s not make this guy out to be any more of a sure thing than Mason Williams, Ravel Santana, or anyone else are.

      The rest of your point, other than again advocating for the Yankees accidentally acquiring Jason Hammel, I agree with.

      • fin

        I wasnt really focusing on Soler. I have no opinion on him at all. Much like Darvish and Cespedes, I leave that stuff to the Yankees to figure out. I was just using him as one of a million possible examples of the variables that will go into what the Yankees do next offseason.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Gotcha. Point taken.

        • Captain

          agreed but don’t confuse a potential Soler signing to have any effect on the major league RF situation in 2013. he wouldn’t figure into the major league plans at all for a couple of years.

          • fin

            That all depends on the type of contract he gets. If he truly gets a ~30mil contract, he is going to be in that teams plans. I would think a team paying that kind of money would project him to be in MLB in a couple of years. Then you would have a full year of minor league baseball to evaluate him and further project him. If he signs a more realistic ~15m contract then I agree with your point. I’m not saying the type of contract is dictacing how fast he gets to the majors. I’m saying that the contract should tell us how close to the majors teams percieve him to be. 30m would seem to tell us that teams think hes close.

          • Ted Nelson

            How much do you know about Soler other than his age?

            • fin

              Nothing, and as I stated, I have no opinion on if the yankees should sign him or not. I havent made any statements regarding my opinion on him. I jsut used him as an example of variables that could go into what the Yankees do next off season and the contract will tell us something about a teams expectations of him.
              That being said, I probably know as much about him as you do as I can and do read the same stuff written about him as you do.

              • Ted Nelson

                My comment was in response to Captain… in terms of Soler’s chances of making the bigs in 2013.

                I don’t know squat about Soler… which is my point.

                • fin

                  LOL, ok. Yea, I find it hard to believe that there are comments like “sign him at any cost”, or people get mad that they dont sign guys like him, or Darvish or Cespedes. People have no idea what kind of players these guys will be and to a certain extent either do the teams that sign them. Their guesses are just alot better than ours. I also find it very hard to beleive that Soler is going to get in the neighborhood of 30m. Just as a random thought, I wonder if he gets a minor league contract or major league contract. That certainly has to effect who he signs with.

  • Robert

    The biggest issue with Upton is tyhat he has never the offensive force that people thought he would be.Outside of the playoffs a few years ago he has been average offensivly.

  • JoeyA

    This Yankees lineup needs more consistency, not a feast or famine guy like BJ. He is one of the major reasons the Rays are so prone to being no-hit. the entire offense disappears for long stretches of time.

    Despite the reoccuring need for pitching and the new trend to stockpile pitching, pitching, and more pitching, this team needs a little youthful offense.

    By 2013, IF Tex fixes his swing, we’ll have Cano, Tex and then Grandy as our 3 biggest offensive producers. Alex and Jeter will not be what they were, or even are now. Gardy gets on base and steals, but, we can all agree he doesnt hit for for power. Martin, Swisher, & DH are all up in the air at that point.

    By that time, Yanks will probably need more than a replacement level 3B as well as RF. BJ Upton will not add consistency to that type of lineup.

    IMO, if we went after Upton for RF, we’d still need another consistent power threat in the middle of the order. I’d rather keep swisher and try to upgrade 3B with a younger guy.

    Just my 2 cents. I’m sure people will call me crazy, but this kid just doesn’t do it for me. Now his brother on the other hand….theres a player to wish for.

    • Dan

      I agree, I think the biggest attribute Swisher has is his ability to get on base and work the count and show some power. Those attributes typically don’t get too much worse with age.

      I think the major question on whether it will be Upton, Swisher, or someone else will be the market for these players. If the Yankees are serious about getting under the luxury tax in 2014 it will be hard for them to sign either Swisher or Upton to a big contract and then sign Granderson next offseason. At the same time, they are not going to want to do nothin this offseason with the hope they can keep Granderson next offseason.

    • Plank

      If the Yankees sign Upton, they can slide him or Gardner over to CF in 2014 and get a big bopper in RF or LF. I think the idea that he would hurt the offense isn’t really true, unless they keep him and Gardner in the corners, while keeping another traditional defense first, bat second CF.

  • Mike HC

    I like Upton a lot. He never developed into a perennial all star but was always a dangerous player with tons of speed and athleticism. I wouldn’t give him 5 years 60 million though.

  • Michael

    RAB’s motto: Why say in 500 words what you can say in 5,000.

    • Jake

      Agreed. You should ask for your money back.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/joshfortunatus joshfortunatus

    I like this piece as a whole but I’d disagree with the kind of drop off proposed here. Sure, Swish’s career wRC+ is 117 but his actual wRC+ with the Yanks has been 124, 134, 122 since ’09 which means that the decrease in actual production is greater because the Yanks actually got that production out of Swish – not the 117.

    I’m no fan of UZR but I would hope that Upton’s defense and baserunning would make up for his bat. At $12M AAV, I’m not sure if the Yanks want another defense/baserunning guy in another corner outfield spot. Silver lining, I guess, is that they’d have Upton through his peak years.

    • Plank

      You kind of touched on it, but Swishers performance the last three years (his peak) isn’t going to be his performance going forward. If it was, I would want the Yankees to sign him in a heartbeat.

      • Havok9120

        Which doesn’t really do anything against his point. We still have to replace that production if we lose it.

        • Plank

          Yes, but Swisher was signed to a below market deal. By definition you can’t sign a below market deal on the free agent market.

          • Havok9120

            I’m even willing to ignore money completely. Find me the available player that replaces his output on the field. Upton doesn’t do it unless he breaks totally out of his box, like Granderson did. But your plan had us dumping both guys for Upton and someone else that can get us roughly equal offensive production for less defense and more money than we’re paying now. I’d find that acceptable, all things considered, but find me that player.

            • Plank

              I hear what you’re saying.

              I can’t find a list of 2014 free agents, but I’m sure there are players on that list that would fit the bill.

              • fin

                The FA outfielders of note the last 3 years have been Holliday, Bay, Crawford, Werth, Beltran. There was one clear upgrade in that bunch. Holiday, cost 120m and there dont seem to be any players like that on the horizon. I think u underestemate the difficulty of finding these guys. Also, if Werth, Crawford and Bay taught us anything, its probably better to stick with a guy that is perfoming for your team than go out and get a guy that is performing for another team. The difficulty replacing Swishers production combine with his “known” quanity is why I think the Yankees try to resign him.

                • Plank

                  I think the message from the Werth, Bay, and Crawford signings is that signing players on the right side of the defensive spectrums to long term contracts in their early 30s is a bad idea. I don’t think those players struggled because they changed uniforms.

                  Nick Swisher was paid 31.6MM over 4 years during his ages 28-31 seasons with the Yankees. That kind of production isn’t found on the free agent market.

                  Next year there are lots of players that could approximate Swisher’s production. They will all cost a lot more than he’s been paid. Swisher himself will cost a lot more and he won’t be as good, either.

                  FAs this offseason

                  Beltran, Cuddyer, Kubel, Sizemore, Willingham

                  FAs in 2013

                  Josh Hamilton, Andre Ethier, Shane Victorino, Delmon Young, BJ Upton, Luke Scott (puke), Melky Cabrera.

                  Is Swisher the best OF going to be a FA in 2013 or 2014? Probably not, he’s up there though. There are certainly options if the Yankees decide to go in a different direction, though.

                  I would rather sign Upton, then wait a year and decide on Granderson when he’s a 33 year old FA.

  • mike

    ironically Uptons best characteristics – speed, power and patience – are two things which decline the slowest relative to other baseball skills.

    • Havok9120

      Patience? Definitely correct there. Power? Also correct….if he has any. That was a big point of the article, he hasn’t shown he can harnass his power since 2007.

      As for speed…wut? Speed declines fairly quickly. Sure, it doesn’t just drop off a cliff, so a really, really fast guy will still be much faster than average, but it still declines.

  • fin

    I think the Yankees are going to try to sign Swisher. There are no clear upgrades on FA market and no one in the system close to MLB to replace him. Everyone is concentrating on Uptons upside, but he could regress just as easy. I dont like the risk with Upton, I would take my chances with Swisher and 3 years over Uptons risk for 4 or 5 years. That of course is my opinion right now, there is still a full season to play and things can change with a strong performance by Upton or weak performance by Swish. I think both will probably get a bigger contract than they are worth though, as there hasnt been many good corner outfielders hitting the market lately and more and more teams have money to spend. The conditions could be very favorable to both players.

    • Havok9120

      This. If Upton can show even mild improvement he’ll be in line for a verrry nice contract. And if Swish plays to his ’09 and ’11 levels (I’ll ignore 2010, though another year like that would be awesome), he’ll also be in line for quite a raise. I’d be happy with either on the team, but I can’t say who I’d prefer with a whole season to play.