Fair value for Nick Swisher

What ever happens, Nick is going to make a lot of money next year.

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.

8 thoughts on “Fair value for Nick Swisher

  1. There is no way the Yankees are even going to consider giving Nick Swisher a 3-year deal at $15-million per year. There is no way the Yankees will give him 1-year at $18-million either.

    I sit in rightfield at Yankee Stadium (I go to about 45 games a year) and Nick Swisher is not a “plus” fielder. He gets bad breaks on balls, and doesn’t have a good arm.

    When teams are figuring what to pay Swisher, they are going to take into account that he was hitting in a lineup of very dangerous hitters. In a lineup like the Yankees Swisher can “sneak up on people offensively”. He’s looking for a multi-year deal at $16-million per year and that’s a “carry the team” kind of contract. He is not that type of player.

    The economics of baseball are changing and Swisher may find out that there are not going to be many suitors for him at a high multi-year deal.

    One landing spot for him could be Boston. They would sign him as a first baseman, if the money is right. They like that he is a switch hitter, and like the Yankees did when they got him, the Sox need a guy like him in the clubhouse. Boston will not give him a huge multi-year deal though.

    • The numbers don’t lie. Swisher is a good to very good hitter, and most of the defensive metrics give him better than average rankings. His defense also passes the eye test. Sometimes he gets tripped up badly, but he is not a liability out there. He’s a known quantity. At the right price he should be kept.

  2. fuster

    It’s great that the Yankees have received significant benefit from their employment of Swisher, and unless the Yankees are planning not to retain the services of the players that they have under contract or planning not to pay a boatload to extend their employment of Cano, it’s time for the Yankees to see if they can find another underpaid outfielder to replace Swish’s past contributions rather than to pay market value to retain his services.

  3. There’s an argument to be made for that. The Yankees have demonstrated consistently that they can patch together production from that position on the field.

  4. hawaii dave

    The numbers don’t lie. Numbers are whatever you make them. Swisher can hit 3 homers on opening day as part of a 15-1 win. Then he can go 0-32 during the next 8 games (like he did somewhere in the 2nd half of 2012)….Swisher might hit 3 more homers in the 10th game. What would his numbers be under those circumstances? Would Swisher be the guy who hit homers in 2 games and did zero for 8 games? Or would you spin the numbers to say he hit homers in 60% of his games by dividing the 6 homers by the 10 games? Spin, spin, spin. The real stats that tell a players value have not been invented yet….I don’t trust sabertronix.

    • roadrider

      Or would you spin the numbers to say he hit homers in 60% of his games by dividing the 6 homers by the 10 game

      Dave, the proper calculation would be that he hit homers in 20% (2 out of 10) of his games (not 60% – they did teach long division in your grade school didn’t they?). That wouldn’t be “spin” it would be a fact. His “numbers” for that period would obviously not be good (.158 BA and OBP assuming no other hits or walks). There’s no statistical technique that can make a streak like that look good. What would it all mean? Well, not much really. The two 3-HR games in the space of 10 days would be noteworthy and so would the hitless streak but both are blips over the course of an entire season. That’s the point you always miss – the big picture.

      Is an 0-32 streak good? Of course not. Now, as you pointed out, Swisher did have an 0-28 streak in September (9 K and 3 walks) But then again, your small-ball hero Ichiro Suzuki had an 0-23 streak in July (with Seattle) including 6 Ks and no walks.

      You, and all the other silly small-ball zealots seem to think that when power hitters are not hitting they do nothing while slap hitters do a lot when their slumping. Well, the fact is that Swisher walks and Suzuki doesn’t and Suzuki’s weak grounders and pop ups really aren’t more valuable or less objectionable than Swisher’s strikeouts and fly outs.

      You have an obvious bias against numbers and statistical analysis because you clearly lack 1) even basic aptitude in grade-school arithmetic 2) any ability to interpret and understand numbers and 3) critical thinking skills common to most adults.

      You’re entitled to your biased, worm’s-eye views based on innumeracy and an inability to reason. But you should know that your posts make you look and sound like an idiot.

  5. Duh, Innings!

    The Yanks should offer Swisher one year $13.3M or the qualifying offer. If he rejects that, they should offer him two years at what he made this year ($10.25M) per year ($20.5M total.) If he rejects that, adios.

    I’d be more than happy with a Melky Cabrera for 2013 only / Granderson / Ichiro for 2013 only LF / CF / RF with Gardner as the #4 OF and all four as tradebait.

  6. Billy ball

    This article was poorly written and no way can anyone sit here and say swisher is above average in field based in statistics. The problem with all these geeks saber metrics is that you fail to watch the in game. Swisher was exposed in the field in the playoffs! Period! Swisher has not hit good pitching this year! Period! To pay swisher three years at 15-18 million dollars is not watching the player on the field!

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