The Nick Swisher Situation

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

It’s been more than three years since Brian Cashman pulled off one of his greatest heists, stealing Nick Swisher from the White Sox for a package of Wilson Betemit and nothing else in particular. Swisher had the worst season of his career with the ChiSox in 2008 (91 wRC+ and 1.3 fWAR), plus Ozzie Guillen didn’t like him one bit. Cashman bought low and has been rewarded handsomely, getting three years of well above average production (126 wRC+ and 11.0 fWAR) for a well below market rate ($21.05M total).

The Yankees picked up Swisher’s no-brainer $10.25M option for 2012 early in the offseason, ensuring that the marriage would last at least one more year. The 31-year-old outfielder will become a free agent for the first time after this season, and he started preparing for the open market by switching agents last February and showing up to camp with a noticeably stronger upper body this week (“This is the strongest I’ve ever been,” he said). Swisher has no intention of talking to the club about contract extension during Spring Training or regular season, however.

“That’s not my style, man. I don’t force the issue,” he said yesterday. “I just go and play the game and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. That’s kind of one of those things that I’m really going to keep in that back corner and not really worry about that until I have to.”

Swisher has made no secret of how much he enjoys playing in New York, which is something I’m sure the Yankees will use as leverage if and when they discuss a new contract. The Michael Cuddyer deal (three years, $31.5M) gives us an idea of what it’ll take to sign Swisher beyond 2012, a deal that would be a bit of a bargain given his production. The problem is that the Yankees seem intent on getting below the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014, which will require them to shed approximately $40M in payroll over the next 24 months.

Right field is one obvious spot where the team could save money, replacing Swisher and his $10M+ salary with a low-cost player or two-man platoon. It’s much easier said than done given the production they’d be losing, especially since the Yankees don’t have an obvious replacement coming up through the farm system. Maybe Zoilo Almonte is that guy, but there are reasons to be skeptical. If Swisher is allowed to move on, the team will likely to get a little creative to replace him. The Yankees have won World Championships with guys like Chad Curtis and Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer in a corner outfield spot, so it can be done.

Fan Confidence Poll: February 27th, 2012

Spring Training Schedule This Week: vs. University of South Florida (Fri.), @ Phillies (Sat. on MLBN), vs. Phillies (Sun. on YES/MLBN)

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Open Thread: 2/26 Camp Notes

"Spit it out." (REUTERS/Scott Audette)

In case you missed it, Chris Dickerson cleared waivers and was removed from the 40-man roster earlier today. Here’s the latest from Tampa…

  • Mariano Rivera threw his first bullpen of the year, saying afterwards “it was good.” That’s all I need to hear. [Marc Carig]
  • Per Chad Jennings, a bunch of minor leaguers and non-roster invitees threw live batting practice while everyone hit. CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are scheduled to face hitters tomorrow. Joe Girardi is expected to announce the early spring rotation schedule on Monday as well.
  • An MRI revealed inflammation in Austin Romine‘s back, and he’s going to miss a few days. “I think it hurt a little bit more than he let on,” said Joe Girardi. Romine missed time last season with back inflammation, but the team doesn’t have any long-term concerns. [Jennings]
  • “I wish I could write it in a book and script it out,” said Nick Swisher when asked about being in his walk year. “I’d be here for the rest of my career.” He’s not going to ask the team for an extension at midseason, however. I’m going to have more on this tomorrow. [Pete Caldera]

Here’s your open thread for the night. The NBA All-Star Game is on tonight (7:30pm ET on TNT), but talk about whatever you like. Go nuts.

Not Mike Mussina

(Reuters)

Who do you think of first when you think of the New York Yankees, #24?

Recency, a penchant for the dramatic, a great glove and a power bat would of course lead one to what might seem like the obvious choice: Robinson Cano. And it’s a pretty good answer, too, in my opinion. Robbie’s grown up into a core member of the team and is, quite frankly, a really good baseball player. He’s expected to hit third in the lineup this year, which means that there will be many men-on dingers and RBIs this year, plus lots of stellar plays he makes look easy and, of course, thousands of giant gum bubbles.

But Cano isn’t the only answer. Here’s some hints: he played first base for the Yankees from 1996-2001 (really knew how to pick his years, didn’t he?), hitting .279 with an OPS+ of 114 and 175 home runs. The answer, to anyone who was around during those years, should be obvious: the wonderful and amazing Tino Martinez. As a kid, I loved Tino only slightly less than I loved Paul O’Neill, and even four years after Tino left, I was still a little sore over this obnoxious second-baseman taking his number, which I believed should have been retired. I was a little insensible as a kid, but the point still stands. In sports and especially on the Yankees, where there are no names on the jerseys, the numbers become associated quite strongly with the player.

(While we’re on the subject of Paul O’Neill and #21, I seem to recall LaTroy Hawkins begin given a lot of crap for taking that number and then changing it, which filled me with more joy than you can ever imagine.)

As the Spring Training pictures roll in, the one thing that keeps throwing me off is Michael Pineda wearing #35. Like every other sensible Yankees fan, I loved Moose and felt it was really depressing that he never got a ring, and while I don’t think retiring his number is in the cards, it’s really strange to see someone else wearing it. Pineda’s a good choice to carry on his legacy of really good pitchers I wouldn’t want to meet in a back alley at night, but that doesn’t change that he isn’t Mike Mussina. Of course, people taking the numbers of old players is just another part of growing up with baseball. Pretty sure no one else is ever going to wear 2, though.

Let’s switch gears a little bit. I had this argument with a friend while I was in New York last year, so I’ll ask all of you: my friend had purchased a Hideki Matsui jersey some years ago while he was still a Yankee. Like a sensible person with disposable income, he had no name of the back. These days, Russell Martin, who is a pretty valuable piece of the team in his own right, now wears #55. Does your jersey magically become a Russell Martin jersey? Is it still a Matsui jersey in your brain, and that’s all that matters? Is the jersey meaningless without the player you bought it for? If no one ever wears #55 again, do you never wear the jersey? What if the number’s retired?

And because this is an article about Yankees jersey numbers: between 6, 46 and 20, which ones get retired?

Who's next? (photo by flickr user 2Eklectik, used under Creative Commons.)

Dickerson clears waivers, outrighted to Triple-A

Now here’s a surprise. Chris Dickerson has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, the Yankees announced. He will remain in big league Spring Training but is no longer on the 40-man roster. Dickerson, 29, is out of minor league options and had to first clear waivers before being sent down. I figured he was a lock to be claimed given his classic fourth outfielder skill set, meaning a lefty that can hit righties, play all three outfield spots well, and run a little. I’m glad he’s sticking around.

Meet the Yankee: Michael Pineda

I was slumming through some video on MLB.com this morning, and I stumbled across this recent Yankees on Demand feature about Michael Pineda. He talks about the trade that brought him to New York, what he’s working on, stuff like that. His English is pretty good considering he’s only been in the States since 2008. Anyway, check it out. It’s a good way to kill some time on a lazy Sunday.

Open Thread: 2/25 Camp Notes

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The first full squad workout was held today, after position players officially reported on Friday. Here’s a recap of the day in Tampa…

  • As always, Chad Jennings has today’s bullpen and hitting groups. All the projected big league pitchers threw in the bullpen today except Ivan Nova, who threw live batting practice. Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, and Kevin Whelan did the same.
  • Pretty much everyone took batting practice today, and apparently Eric Chavez was launching bombs. Austin Romine was the one guy who didn’t hit, sitting out due to a sore back both today and yesterday. [Jennings & Bryan Hoch]
  • “I’m still mad about ’09 World Series,” joked new DH and former Phillie Raul Ibanez, who also said the Yankees have “[all the] criteria you’d want” in choosing a new team as a free agent. He spent some time in minor league camp talking to young players yesterday, which is pretty neat. [Erik Boland & Ken Davidoff]
  • “I take enormous pride in hitting fourth,” said Alex Rodriguez after today’s workout. “I’m going to make it as difficult as possible to take me out of that position.” A-Rod also said that his knee feels healthy, and that he plans on playing way more than 99 games this season. You know, just in case you thought he was planning to play less. [Dan Barbarisi, Mark Feinsand & Boland]

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Rangers are the only local team in action, though the NBA Skills Competition is on as well, if that’s your thing (8pm ET on TNT). Talk about whatever you like here, go nuts.