Archive for Nick Swisher
While I’m sure Nick Swisher doesn’t need defending among RAB’s audience, his name has continued to arise this offseason due to a variety of factors: (a) As the Yankees’ only position-player free agent among the starting nine next offseason, he would seem to be the most tradeable; (b) Some folks are still irrationally mad at Swish for underperforming in three separate and completely unrelated small sample sizes; and (c) the Yankees need pitching, which is basically an extension of (a).
Here’s the problem with any trade speculation involving Swish: Nick Swisher is (as I mentioned in the above-linked piece) the living and breathing embodiment of the ideal New York Yankee on offense, a sabermetrician’s dream of patience and power who led the team in OBP in 2011 with a .374 mark despite starting the season in a horrid slump, notched the best BB% on the team, at 15% — a massive jump from 2010′s 9.1% not to mention the third-best mark in the American League — and finished 11th in the AL in pitches per plate appearance (20th in 2010 and 2nd in the league in 2009).
He’s really quite good at what he does, random postseason struggles aside. This becomes even clearer when taking a quick scan of the 2013 outfield free agent class:
Josh Hamilton (32)
Eric Hinske (35)
Mark Kotsay (37)
Carlos Lee (37)
Juan Rivera (34) – $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Luke Scott (35)
Delmon Young (27)
Matt Diaz (35)
Andre Ethier (31)
Torii Hunter (37)
Mark Kotsay (37)
Carlos Quentin (30)
Juan Rivera (34) – $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Ryan Spilborghs (33)
Ichiro Suzuki (39)
Nick Swisher (32)
Before the Dodgers extended Matt Kemp, fine, I’d have been alright with letting Swish walk in favor of Kemp patrolling whichever section of Yankee Stadium’s outfield he wanted. However, as it currently stands, none of next year’s pending free agent outfielders are better than Swish. The only names on that list that I would maybe think twice about are Carlos Quentin and Shane Victorino, and Swish has been a better offensive player (.370 wOBA) than both outfielders over the last three seasons (both Victorino and Quentin have matching .354 wOBAs during that same timeframe). Yes, we all know Josh Hamilton’s been a beast (.388 wOBA over the last three seasons), but he also can’t stay healthy and will presumably be looking for a huge deal. With all of these players essentially the same age, I’d go with the devil you know who has also played in 150 games in each of his three seasons in pinstripes.
But wait, there’s more. Here’s a rundown of Yankee right-fielders over the last 20 individual seasons, sorted by OPS+:
Swish’s three seasons didn’t end up ranking quite as high as I’d have expected, although that’s really more a tribute to how beastly Paul O’Neill was in pinstripes than any shortcomings on Nick’s part.
However, the case for Nick Swisher as one of the best Yankee right-fielders of the past two decades really comes into focus when we look at the cumulative numbers (minimum 300 PAs, sorted by fWAR), courtesy of FanGraphs:
Who knew Danny Tartabull was a regular OBP machine? The Yankees have gotten some pretty robust offensive production out of their right-fielders for a large chunk of the past 20 years. As you can see, Swish is tied for third-best wOBA with Bobby Abreu and Tartabull, but more importantly, has been considerably more valuable than both men in a similar amount of PAs due to his superior glovework.
While the Yankees may not see another Paul O’Neill for a good while — believe it or not, O’Neill actually has a decent case for one of the top Yankee rightfielders of the last 50 years (2nd-highest fWAR, 3rd-highest OBP, 6th-highest wOBA) — they’ve arguably got the second-best thing in Nick Swisher.
While filing the position in right field presents no problems for the 2012 Yankees, the 2013 team could have a vacancy there. After the 2011 season the Yankees exercised Nick Swisher‘s $10.25 million option, keeping him in the Bronx at least one more year. But after this season he reaches free agency, at which time his value on the open market might be more than the Yankees are willing to pay him. After all, if the Yankees really do plan to get under $189 million in 2014, Swisher just might not fit into the plans. That is, if he’s due a raise over his current salary. Given the current market, that might not be the case.
This week the Twins signed Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract. That looks like a bargain, since they reportedly had a three-year, $25 million out to Michael Cuddyer. Willingham has been a quality hitter in his six major league seasons, compiling a .262/.361/.475 slash line and a .364 wOBA (123 wRC+). He’s had some health issues, and he’s not the greatest outfield defender. But there’s little question about his bat. His worst major league season came last year, when he played half his games at the Oakland Coliseum, and even then he produced a .350 wOBA and 123 wRC+.
If Willingham’s career numbers look familiar, it might be because they resemble someone else’s:
It’s pretty crazy how those numbers match up almost exactly, save for Swisher’s poor 2008 season. They also share eerily similar platoon splits, about .350 wOBA against right-handed pitching and .375 against left-handers. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they’re in line for the same payday. There are a few factors, beyond offense, that separate Willingham and Swisher.
- Willingham is, by the numbers and the eye test, not a very good defender. Swisher might not be a gem, but he’s serviceable in right. That gives him a leg up on Willingham.
- Swisher will be a year younger hitting free agency. Willingham will be 33 next year, while Swisher’s first year after hitting free agency will be his age-32 season.
- Swisher has a far better health record. He’s played in at least 150 games in every season since 2006. Willingham has yet to hit the 150-game mark.
- Swisher already makes $10.25 million, so it’s not likely he gets a pay cut, especially from the Yankees.
Still, even with the advantages Swisher holds over Willingham, it’s not likely he’ll fetch a significantly more lucrative contract next off-season. Perhaps Michael Cuddyer getting three years at $30 million might change the equation, since Swisher is a better hitter than Cuddyer, is younger, and has had fewer poor seasons. But since it’s likely that Cuddyer gets something in Willingham’s range, it’s reasonable to expect Swisher to receive something in that range when he hits the open market.
If the Yankees could lock down right field from 2013 through 2015 at $11 million per season, would that work? One big issue at play here is a potential replacement. There are a few corner outfielders whom the Yankees could pursue, but they’re all flawed in their own ways. Josh Hamilton has injury concerns and will still likely get paid far more than Swisher. Andre Ethier will likely get a decent payday by reputation, but he’s only one year younger than Swisher and has nearly identical career numbers. Carlos Quentin will also hit free agency, but he has longstanding injury issues. Since the Yankees have no viable internal replacements, that means either trading prospects for a right fielder or re-signing Swisher. At $11 million per season that could be a viable proposition.
We can be sure that nothing will come of this until next off-season. The Yankees aren’t eager to deal with any player under contract, and Swisher certainly isn’t a priority. But when the time comes they might find that, even at three years and $33 million, he’s the most reasonable on the market.
The Dodgers’ ownership situation is a total mess at the moment, but that didn’t stop the club from locking up Matt Kemp for the better part of a decade. The center fielder and likely NL MVP agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $160M yesterday, securing the kind of deal that only comes along when 27-year-old center fielders have MVP-caliber seasons. Funny how that worked out.
Many Yankees fans, myself included, were already fitting Kemp for pinstripes since he was due to become a free agent after next season. Nick Swisher‘s contract also expires then, so naturally the Yankees would just sign one of the very best players in the world to fill the right field void, he’d crush opposite field bombs like this, and we’d all live happily ever after. I had a feeling the Dodgers would find a way to keep Kemp long-term (it’s only a matter of time before they sign Clayton Kershaw long-term as well), but now that dream scenario of signing him after next season is officially the table.
The Yankees still have to figure out what’s going on in right field though, because there isn’t anyone in the farm system coming up to fill the void and the idea of moving Jesus Montero or Derek Jeter out there is just a pipe dream. The free agent market without Kemp still boasts some star caliber names, but none are as young or offensively dominant as the Dodgers’ cornerstone. Josh Hamilton is a great story, but he’ll be 32 shortly after Opening Day 2013 and has had major problems staying healthy in recent years. It’s fair to wonder how his past substance abuse will hinder his ability to stay on the field down the road. Andre Ethier can’t hit lefties (.270 wOBA vs. LHP last three years) and is arguably the worst defensive outfielder in the game. Unless you happen to have a strong affinity for Carlos Quentin or Shane Victorino, there’s not much else to see here.
Without Kemp on the market, it’s entirely possible that the Yankees’ best long-term option in right field is the guy they have out there right now. Swisher certainly isn’t without his faults, but he’s extremely durable, hits for power from both sides of the plate, and catches everything he’s supposed to in the outfield. The Yankees know him (and his medical history) better than anyone else, and he offers a level of certainty that I really don’t see in the other candidates. Hamilton is the high upside play, but he could easily turn into the position player version of Carl Pavano. If a reasonable agreement – say three years or so – can be worked out between the Yankees and Swisher, then that is probably the team’s best bet with Kemp now a non-option.
Thankfully, the right field question isn’t one that needs an answer right now. The Yankees have an above-average player set to man the position in 2012 and twelve months for the market to develop. Trade options could emerge, internal options could emerge, all sorts of stuff can happen. Unfortunately Matt Kemp won’t be the answer, but that’s okay. That’ll give the Yankees more money to spend on pitching anyway.
Brian Cashman held a conference call with reporters this afternoon following the announcement of his new three-year contract, and he downplayed the significance of running a New York team. “It’s an easier situation for me because I haven’t really been anywhere else,” said the Yankees-lifer. “This is all I know.”
The biggest piece of news to come out of the conference call was Andrew Brackman’s release. You win some and you lose
some a lot in the draft, and in Brackman’s case, the Yankees spent nearly $11M (according to Pete Caldera) to have him face 13 big league hitters. Ouch. Cashman also confirmed that the starting rotation will continue to be the team’s priority this offseason (duh), though they could still add a second left-handed reliever as well. Here’s a list of the free agent lefty relievers, in case you’re wondering who might fill Damaso Marte‘s DL spot next season. Here are the rest of the notes from the press conference…
- “We’re in a position now to take our time and explore and digest as well as pursue, but at our own pace, not in an emotional or reactive state,” said Cashman when asked about pursuing pitching. “It allows us to survey the landscape in a more conservative way. [Re-signing CC Sabathia] provides us a lot of security.” (Mark Feinsand, Chad Jennings & Marc Carig)
- “He’s had to deal with adversity because of the inconsistent performance,”said Cashman when asked about A.J. Burnett. “He still was able to step up in October.” Cashman did laud Burnett’s ability to take the ball every five days and be accountable after his starts. Unless something unexpected happens, A.J will be in the rotation next season. (Kim Jones)
- As for Yu Darvish, Cashman simply said: “I think like with anything else you learn over time. I think we’re more prepared today than we have been in the past.” I take that to mean the Yankees did more research on Darvish than they did with Kei Igawa, but that’s a quote open to (mis)interpretation. (Jon Lane)
- Cashman confirmed that Rafael Soriano did not exercise his opt-out clause before last night’s deadline and will be with the team in 2012. (Anthony McCarron)
- When asked about soon-to-be free agents like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, Cashman said: “I don’t anticipate a bat being a need at all. Offense is not a problem with this club despite what happened in the Detroit series.” (Bryan Hoch & Feinsand)
- Picking up Nick Swisher‘s option was “an easy call,” and the GM isn’t concerned too much about his right fielder’s third straight poor postseason showing. (Feinsand)
- As for Jesus Montero‘s role with the team next season, Cashman said: “He could be a catcher, he could be a DH, he could be a bat off the bench, depending on how the roster looks.” (Jones)
- As for the trade market, Cashman said he’s open “to anybody’s ideas” and is willing to discuss a deal involving Burnett or pretty much anyone else on the roster. “If anybody wants to approach me on anybody on this roster, if they don’t have a full no-trade clause, worst I can tell em is no.” Burnett has a partial no-trade clause, but as yesterday’s Derek Lowe trade showed, A.J. has minimal trade value. (Jones, Hoch & Dan Barbarisi)
- Cashman said that a long-term deal for Russell Martin is possible, but he likes the flexibility that their upper level catching depth provides. “He’s under our control [as an arbitration-eligible player]. He was fantastic, he didn’t disappoint … I’m a big fan.” (Kim Jones)
- Cashman on Jorge Posada‘s future: “That’s something we’ll have to discuss here on the short term … it’s not something I’m prepared to talk about today.” (Barbarisi)
- “[Frankie Cervelli] is fine,” said Cashman. “He’s full-bore, ready to go as a catcher.” That’s good news. Frankie suffered his third concussion in four years in early-September. (Jones)
- Cashman also confirmed that no one big league roster needs any kind of offseason surgery. (Jennings)
As expected, the Yankees have officially exercised their club options for Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Cano will earn $14M next season, Swisher $10.25M. Both no-brainers, if you ask me. CC Sabathia has until midnight Monday to opt out of the remaining four years and $92M left on his deal, which he almost certainly will.
You guys really for Game Seven? I’m stoked, can’t wait. Until the first pitch is thrown, here are some miscellaneous notes from Yankeeland, all courtesy of Joel Sherman (unless otherwise noted)…
- The Yankees and Brian Cashman have yet another three-year contract already in place, they’re just waiting until the end of the World Series to announce it. This will be Cashman’s fourth straight three-year deal. (link)
- The Commissioner’s Office sent out a memo today, letting the teams know that the offseason clock has been moved from noon tomorrow to midnight Sunday. That’s just so the offseason officially begins on a Monday. CC Sabathia will now have until midnight Wednesday to opt out of his contract, and free agents can officially negotiate with new teams at midnight Friday. (link and link)
- Cashman will meet with Sabathia’s agent this weekend to try to finalize a contract extensions for the left-hander. We heard last night that the team has an offer ready to go, and are just waiting to deliver it to CC’s people. (Andrew Marchand)
- Nick Swisher‘s contract contains a limited no-trade clause, and the Yankees have asked him to submit his list of teams he won’t accept a trade to just so they know what their options are should they choose to move him. Once they see the list, they’ll pick up his $10.25M option for 2012. (link and link)
The Yankees have had one of the league’s best offenses for many years running, but they came into the season with a surprising lack of sure things at the plate. How would Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez continue to decline? Would Curtis Granderson continue to rake after making adjustments with Kevin Long? Would Mark Teixeira‘s batting average bounce back? Can Brett Gardner do it again with the wrist injury in the rear-view mirror? How would Jorge Posada take to DHing? Is Russell Martin healthy? The only two players with any kind of certainty coming into 2011 were budding star Robinson Cano and the less hyped Nick Swisher.
Oddly enough, Swisher’s season started with a rather prolonged slump, particularly in the power department. He’d gotten off to hot starts in his previous two years as a Yankee, so this was quite the opposite. Swish didn’t hit his first homerun until the team’s 22nd game of the season, at which point he was hitting just .237/.351/.303 in 94 plate appearances. The slump continued into late-May, and the Yankees right fielder carried a weak .206/.321/.288 batting line into the May 29th game in Seattle, the Yankees’ 51st game of the season.
A second inning solo homer off Jason Vargas in that May 29th game set the stage for Swisher’s turn around. He put together a little six-game hitting streak and socked another homer three days later, then hit another one out three days after that. It’s not much, but he managed to raise his season batting line from .204/.321/.289 to .215/.342/.348 during the nine-game west coast trip, and he was the team’s best hitter during June: .326/.445/.651 with seven homers and more walks (20) than strikeouts (16). From that May 29th game through the end of the season, he hit .284/.397/.519 with 23 doubles and 21 homers in 442 plate appearances.
Swisher managed to raise his overall season line from that sub-replacement level garbage he put up through the first 51 games to a much more respectable .260/.374/.449 after 162 games, a .358 wOBA that was his worst as a Yankee but still 19th best among the 62 qualified outfielders in baseball. Swisher did struggle against righties (.335 wOBA) compared to lefties (.412), but it wasn’t enough to stop him from leading the team in OBP and posting the seventh highest walk rate (15.0%) in baseball. At 3.4 bWAR and 3.8 fWAR, he was either the 19th or 25th best outfielder in the game, depending on your statistical preference.
The sluggish start and dreadful postseason showing (4-for-19 with a walk) sort of puts a damper on yet another fine season for Swisher, who at this point has to be considered one of the best pickups of the Brian Cashman era when considering cost. He’s gotten on base and hit for power every season he’s been in New York, and he hasn’t spent a day on the disabled list. The Yankees are very likely to pick up Swisher’s $10.25M option for 2012, bringing him back to Bronx for at least one more season, a season that will almost certainly be productive.
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but after talking to “executives, agents and various baseball wiseguys” this week, ESPNNY’s Wallace Matthews reports that the Yankees will pick up Nick Swisher‘s $10.25 million option for 2012. While a portion of the fanbase loudly disagrees with this, it really is the smart move. Even if the Yankees would rather have someone else in right field, they’re better off picking up Swisher’s option and trading him. That would at least get them something in return, something that they could perhaps use to acquire Swisher’s replacement. Still, I wouldn’t bet against Swisher standing in right field on Opening Day 2012.
On a side note, Matthews mentions a frequent argument of Swisher detractors: his poor postseason numbers. In nine postseason series he’s hitting .169/.295/.323 in 147 PA. It makes me think back to Tino Martinez, who hit .209/.293/.306 in his first 150 postseason PA. From that point through the end of his first Yankees tenure he hit .280/.364/.434 in 217 PA. So to say that Swisher can’t turn it around is patently absurd, as we can see from a recent Yankee example.
I don’t do this often, because drumming up trade proposals is the safest way to look like an idiot on the baseball blogosphere. Usually I just come up with a possible trade target, state his qualifications, list what some similar players brought back in a trade, and leave it at that. I’m going to do something different this time, only because this deal seemed not completely insane when it came to me: Nick Swisher for Shaun Marcum.
Hear me out, I think it makes some sense for both clubs. I mentioned last week that one way or the other, the Yankees should pick up Swisher’s option, even if they want to get rid of him. It’s a below-market salary and it makes him a trade commodity, so that’s the route they’d have to go to pull off this swap with the Brewers. Now let’s dig into the details…
Their contracts are close to a wash.
Both Marcum and Swisher will be free agents after the 2012 season, and both comfortably project to be Type-A free agents at the moment. Swisher will be owed $10.25M once his option is picked up, and MLBTR’s projections have Marcum at $6.8M his final time through arbitration. They do note that peers like Matt Garza, John Danks, and Jeremy Guthrie could lift that salary a little higher (perhaps into the $8M range), but even if they don’t, a $3.45M gap isn’t huge. I’d have to think the two sides could work that out.
Their performances are close to a wash.
Despite a sluggish finish (more on that in a bit), Marcum had a very strong year for the Brewers. He pitched to a 3.54 ERA (3.73 FIP) in 200.2 IP, his first time over the 200 IP plateau. That performance is pretty damn close to what he did for the Blue Jays in 2010 (3.64 ERA and 3.74 FIP in 195.1 IP), his first year back from Tommy John surgery. Over his last three years (that’s 2008 plus 2010-2011 because of the elbow injury), Marcum has been worth 10.0 bWAR, a bit below Swisher’s 11.4 bWAR during his three years in pinstripes. Perhaps the salary difference offsets the production difference.
Each team would be filling a need.
The Yankees need starting pitching, obviously. The free agent market is uninspiring beyond C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, the latter of whom isn’t even a free agent (technically). Marcum brings four-plus years worth of AL East experience as well as less risk because he won’t require a long-term contract. The Brewers will lose Prince Fielder to free agency barring some unforeseen miracle, and Swisher can step right in at first base and replace some of what they’re losing in the middle of the order.
Each team would be dealing from a position of depth.
The Brewers are set to bring all five starters back next year, including swingman extraordinaire Marco Estrada (8.55 K/9 and 3.67 FIP this year). They will also have top-ish prospects Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta stashed away in Triple-A in case of emergency. If the Yankees have anything to spare, it’s offense. They’d still boast one of the game’s best lineups without Swisher.
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Ultimately, I would say no to this trade if I was the Yankees, though I think it would be a lot easier for them to replace Swisher’s production this winter than find a pitcher of Marcum’s caliber. That doesn’t mean they should run out and sign Carlos Beltran for multiple years, but they could dig up a productive right fielder. Hell, I bet a platoon of Chris Dickerson and Andruw Jones would be worth about three wins, and if not, it’s easier to find a corner outfield bat than a starting pitcher at the trade deadline.
I do worry about how Marcum finished the season (35 runs in 34 IP across four regular season starts and three playoff starts), mostly because something might be wrong physically. He had the elbow surgery two years ago and dealt with a hip flexor strain this summer. Then again, he could have just hit a wall after going from 15.2 IP in 2009 (all minor league rehab) to 195.1 IP in 2010 following the elbow surgery. Marcum also has little room for error as a soft-tossing (fastball has averaged ~87 mph last five years) fastball-changeup specialist, especially one that gives up a lot of fly balls (39.2% grounders in his career) and doesn’t miss a ton of bats (7.3 K/9 since 2008).
As Joe reminded us three offseasons ago, our trade proposals suck. I fully acknowledge that my trade proposal is dumb and extremely unlikely to happen, but I do think it’s slightly less dumb than most of the proposals you’ll find out there. There is reason for each team to explore a Swisher-for-Marcum swap, but at the end of the day, the Yankees would assuming too much risk while giving away too much certainty.
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.
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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.