Enjoy Nick Swisher This Season

As our own Brien Jackson has been hammering away at us, the New York Yankees are now budget-conscious. While it is difficult for us to wrap our heads around this new concept, the evidence has been right in front of us all off season. The Yankees passed on all the big-ticket free agents and even dumped A.J. Burnett to save ten million dollars and filled the remainder of the roster with low cost options. The reason, of course, is the new collective bargaining agreement signed during the winter between Major League Baseball its players. The new labor agreement puts serious penalties on spending over a certain limit. While we can all speculate how George Steinbrenner would have handled such penalties, but George is gone and his sons are cut from a slightly different cloth of fiscal thinking.

In 2013, Robinson Cano is going to want to collect what he is worth to the Yankees. That will be a priority. Brett Gardner will make considerably more money even if he has a similar season to last year. If the Yankees pick up Curtis Granderson‘s option in 2013, he jumps up to $13 million. Sure, if Mariano Rivera retires [[[shiver]]] and Hiroki Kuroda is no longer on the books, that’s $25 million off the current payroll. But the current payroll is also $14 million over budget. Something has to give and unfortunately that means guys like Nick Swisher and Russell Martin will become too expensive if their free market price becomes in the $13 to $15 million range per season.  The Yankees have enjoyed the benefit of Nick Swisher’s prime baseball years at a discount price. They are not going to pay him a premium price for his post prime baseball seasons. Even if the Yankees could pick only one between Swisher and Martin, Martin would be the better option because of his position.

There is also precedent for allowing Nick Swisher to walk. Three year ago, the Yankees allowed Bobby Abreu to walk and traded for Swisher. That worked out better than the Yankees could have hoped. While there will be slim pickings among free agent outfielders next season (see here for a list), the Yankees would look for a trade to replace Swisher. Sure, they may not get as fortunate this time. But with the current fiscal reality, that is a gamble they will have to take. Looking at Brien’s top prospect list, it seems unlikely that an internal options would be ready for 2013.

Nick Swisher has been a blast and fans have really enjoyed his tenure as a Yankee. He brings fun to a sometimes staid and stoic organization. He has also produced on the field with improved defense and solid offensive output. But his Yankee days are numbered. Enjoy him this season as it will most likely be his last in pinstripes.

23 thoughts on “Enjoy Nick Swisher This Season

  1. David

    Wouldn't it possibly make more sense to lock-up Swisher for a year or two, see if you can get team options and then put Romine in over Martin? It almost seems like there's no chance Martin resigns with the Yankees, no? If Martin gets hurt, he has durability issues and the Yanks may not want to resign; if he doesn't, then his price and contract-length increases — so it seems sort of lose/lose for the Yankess (which sucks, because I LIKE Martin!)…

    • danrizzle

      If Swisher would take a year or two contract, then sure I would not see any problem with that so long as the team could cut payroll elsewhere. But as long as his production doesn't tank this year, I think he'll get at least three years and probably four. Michael Cuddyer just got three years, and Swisher has been substantially better than him.

    • williamjtasker

      I am a big Russell Martin believer (kind of the lone wolf here too, heh) but since no agreement could be reached, he'll hit the free market in 2013 and if he has a solid season, he'll be too expensive. Swisher is in line to make good on a three or four year deal. He is unlikely to settle for a one or two year deal.

      • David

        Oh, I'm totally a Martin-fan — my gf (who knows next to nothing about baseball but is learning as I explain) was totally enraptured by the whole "nail polish" thing (which was hilarious). I just don't see HOW it can work out for the Yankees.

        As for Swisher, he seems like the Turk Wendell-type — a just sort of "out there" guy who absolutely, positively LOVES playing in NY and I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if he "Paul O'Neill's" his agent and joins the anti-IIATMS List for taking a lower-deal than he could in order to play where he wants to.

  2. math

    ah let him walk. Guy is a regular season hero and a post season zero

    • danrizzle

      Don't mean to pick a fight, but I would invite you to imagine that someone disagrees with you about whether Swisher is "a post season zero." (In the context you provide, it seems that you intend to say that going forward, it is unlikely that Swisher's post-season performance would improve.) Now, consider that someone disagrees with you about that. What would that someone's argument be?

    • Swish's hot wife

      truth, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

  3. chad

    "There is also precedent for allowing Nick Swisher to walk. Three year ago, the Yankees allowed Bobby Abreu to walk and traded for Swisher."

    While those two things did happen in the same off-season, Swisher wasn't really acquired to replace Abreu. They were really replacing Abreu with Xavier Nady, who was already on the team. Swisher was going to be a 1st base candidate, along with being an extra outfielder. Then they signed Teixeira, Nady got hurt, and the rest is history.

    As for enjoying Swisher, I will enjoy him all season as he puts up his usual very good numbers. Then I will curse him as he hits .180 in the playoffs and wish him well on his new team.

    • williamjtasker

      A correct observation and catch, Chad. Thanks for making it.

  4. mcmastro

    Thinking of contracts the Yankees will lose next season, it would be Rivera, Swisher, Martin, which would save them around 30 million if i'm correct. Basically, Cano, Gardner and Granderson will probably take at least an extra $20 million to keep. So MAYBE that leaves them 10 million if they are lucky. They COULD maybe hand out a contract to either Swisher or Martin, but it wouldn't be worth it considering they'd probably end up overpaying when the money could be used better somewhere else. I've been an advocate of trading Granderson for prospects and a salary cut because i HATE banking on players to repeat a season they've never had before. Plus, he strikes out way too much in my taste to hit anywhere above the 6 spot. But he hits homers and got on base and has speed so i understand why it'll never be done.

    • Jacques

      I have been reading this blog for quite awhile and you seem to repeat again and again to trade Grandy….but the reality is, it's not going to happen so i would not even consider that an option. Plus, there is no immediate replacement for Curtis unless you're fine with Jones/Ibanez/maybe Damon.

  5. michael

    Do we really need to continue to have a witch hunt for the October Nick Swisher? There isn't a better counterexample to this point than Rodriguez. He was sooo unclutch, a choke artist, for years, in the playoffs. For the better parts of 2004-2007, he was deemed useless in the playoffs. Then he became the hero in several playoff games in 2009 post season, simply by being the player he was during the season.

    Watch Nick Swisher rake this October. The same people will then say he was clutch because it's a contract year, or some other nonsense MSM narrative. Because he didn't care about winning a world series in the first three post seasons, but then all of the sudden he'll remember how to hit.

    • williamjtasker

      Agree, Michael. Post season hitting is a random, small sample size event.

  6. jay_robertson

    Afraid you're right, Will. I'll miss him. If he even has an average (for Swish) year, someone will offer him 3-4 years at as much or more than the Yankees will be able to pay. Kinda sad to think about it, but if it wasn't for Alex's contract, they could lock up Martin AND Swisher. A swap I wouldn't have wanted in 09, but would take in a flash over the next 3 years.

    While Nick would like to play in NYC – otoh, he's been there, done that. If he has a good season, have to think there will be a "fun" situation out there waiting for him.

  7. I'm thinking if they let NIck walk, then perhaps it might be time to slide Jeter to left field and push Grandy/Gardner over to RF/CF. That's a move that needs to be made soon, so why not next year?

    (Of course, I'd love to hang onto Nick despite his post-season issues – which don't matter if you can't get to the post season.)

    • While I agree with the thought, my overwhelming feeling is that Derek Jeter will never play another position for the Yankees other than SS (other than the DH). Could be wrong, but there it is.

  8. ChipBuck

    A few things.

    1. Great article William. As a Red Sox fan, I can honestly say that Nick Swisher is the one Yankee I truly like. I respect everyone else, but Swisher is a fun, talented, underrated player. He's exactly the type of baseball player I've always liked.

    2. It's funny to see both the Yankees and Red Sox become budget conscious. It's also interesting to see how both franchise are portrayed in the media as a result.

    3. If internal options seem unlikely to fill the vacancies, who do they go after that's reasonably priced that keeps them under the luxury tax?

    • BrienJackson

      I wouldn't be surprised to see them muck around with a replacement level or slightly better right fielder in 2014. Remember a) they only need to meet the target for one year to get the revenue sharing rebate and avoid the higher luxury tax rate and b) it's not like they haven't won with less-than-superstar corner outfielders before (why hello there Shane Spencer, nice to see you're alive).

      • not Montero's dad

        To get under the luxury tax target for that one year, why don't the Yanks see if they can backload Swisher's contract? Say, $5 million for year 1, then balloon to $15 million or so for years 2-4?

        Not that I necessarily want to keep Swish at market value. I don't like the idea of another big contract on a guy in his mid-30s.

        Just saying that there a few ways to keep Swich if they wanted to.

        • The luxury tax is calculated using a contract’s average annual value, so that wouldn’t work.

          • jay_robertson

            Maybe a one year contract, with an under the table commitment for more money and a longer contract the next year? (ok – that's illegal) – but if it was done with a player option – would it still count as AAV, after the fact?

            Not that I'm dying to see the fading years of Nick in pinstripes – but otoh, I really don't know the alternatives. I'd take Hamilton in a flash, but doubt if he'd be available at "our" price.

          • Clever, but not going to happen.

  9. hmelawyer

    There is one assumption that I am not ready to make in all of this discussion: That Gardner is a sure thing for our future lineups. He had a great 2010, and his speed is an asset. However, if he cannot show that 2010 was not a fluke, I do not think that a guy with an OPS+ below 90 is a sure thing for a corner outfield slot. The team as currently assembled can compensate for that lack of offense, but if Swisher leaves and is not replaced by someone who can put up similar production (~120 OPS+) suddenly Gardner's lack of production could become a problem.

    I am not saying that Gardner should be gone instead of Swisher or that he does not have a terrific season this year to make the discussion moot. What I am saying is that if his number this year look a lot more like 2009 and 2011 than 2010, then maybe he isn't worth the raise he would be in line for and his production could be replaced by a cheaper option.

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