Ask anyone who the best Yankee is and the answer will always be the same: Robinson Cano. Ask anyone who the second best Yankee is, however, and things get murkier. Some will say Derek Jeter. Others will say CC Sabathia. Few would say Nick Swisher, few except Fangraphs, that is. Your number two Yankee in terms of fWAR is none other than Nick Swisher.
Swisher wasn’t just the second best Yankee in terms of wins either. He was also number two on the team in wOBA (.363) and wRC+ (128). Throw in the fact that he also rates as a plus defender (he may look ugly doing it, but Swisher is better with the leather than folks realize) and Swisher is a solid, all around commodity.
The assumption among the fans this season has always been that Nick will leave the team as a free agent. Swisher may be good, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and this is his only chance to get that big payday. If the numbers don’t work out I too feel that the Yankees should turn a page and let some other team overpay Swisher during his decline years. But the key word here is overpay. The Yankees should try to retain Swisher if they can. The question then becomes what does a deal that makes economic sense for the team look like? At what price does it make sense for the Yankees to try to keep Swisher?
I would argue three years at $45 million is a fair deal for Nick. According to Fangraphs that number isn’t so far off the level of production Nick has given the Yankees these last few years. The site says he’s been worth $16-$18 million a year since 2010. That $15 million would also represent a big pay increase from the $10 million the Yankees paid Swisher this year. In terms of raw dollars, that’s a figure both sides should be comfortable with.
The sticking point would be the length. Nick will turn 32 at the end of this year. While his overall production has been consistent with the Yankees these last few seasons, his in-season performance has been erratic, something I always take a negative sign for an aging player. It is easy to imagine that Nick’s skills will begin eroding soon, which is why the contract length should be short. Three years minimizes the risk to the Yankees that Swisher turns into another Mark Teixeira, a player locked up for top flight talent money and years but who is no longer top flight talent.
The numbers of years is what figures to be contentious, of course. While I love the idea of getting three more years of Swisher at $15 million a season, I’d just as soon pull the trigger on $18 million, or even $20 million. Those numbers represent an overpay in raw salary, but the real killer in baseball contracts is the number of years, not the number of dollars. Swisher figures to be done in about three years time. No smart team should pay him for seasons after that.
Swisher and his agent won’t see it that way. They’ll want to get as many years and as much money as they can, and they should. My gut tells me that some team somewhere will give Swisher five or six years. When that happens the Yankees should thank him for services rendered and let him go. But, just because the Yankees shouldn’t overpay Swisher doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to keep him. He provides value to the team. A three year deal makes sense for the Yankees, even if they overpay slightly in dollar terms per season. Swisher will probably say no, but there’s no harm in trying.