Not So Swishalicious

The main goal for almost any player whose job is not in jeopardy in spring training is simple: don't get hurt. Injuries can derail entire seasons; getting hurt in a spring training game feels like a needless waste—the games don't count for anything, after all, and unless one is vying for a starting job or a roster's final spot, there is a question of just how hard a (presumably in-shape) player should push himself for the sake of the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

Nick Swisher, however, has broken this sacrament with not one, but two injured groins. It's not the ideal way to start one's walk year, and despite his notorious inconsistencies, the Yankees can ill-afford to lose their starting right fielder for significant time. Swisher's groin injuries do not appear to be serious, but the Bombers will still want their All-Star outfielder healthy.

Twenty-home run power is certainly respectable, but what the Yankees (and Moneyball devotees) will deem most important is Swisher's high on-base percentages; as a Yankee his OBPs have never been lower than .359 (it was .374 last season, second only to his .381 OBP with the Athletics in 2007). Sabermetric critics might argue that using OBP alone to evaluate players is a faulty idea (and they are not wrong), but Swisher has achieved the Nick Johnson-like quality of making a career out of it (albeit without the caveat of being made of glass).

At 31 years of age, whether or not the Yankees will choose to re-sign Swisher at the end of the season will remain an interesting question; the Yankees are already on the hook for some substantial salaries in 2013 and afterwards, even though they have admitted to trying to rein in payroll prior to the start of the 2014 season. An age-33 right fielder is still perfectly valuable if productive and healthy, but Swisher will probably command a sizable salary and few re-signings of players still in or not far removed from their prime will be done for just one or two years.

The Yankees, though, will have a more immediate problem if Swisher's injuries turn out to be more serious than they are letting on: there are not a lot of candidates for a right-field substitute. Andruw Jones is an effective platoon player, but he is still just that-a platoon player-and the Yankees' farm system boast of few major-league ready outfielders (it might be worth noting that Justin Maxwell is on the Yankees' 40-man roster and has had a torrid spring). Still, Maxwell is 28 and it's unlikely that he would be the Yankees' long-term plan for an outfielder (although, again, one might consider that Brett Gardner was never supposed to be more than a fourth outfielder, never mind the best defensive left fielder in all of major-league baseball).

Swisher remains popular among Yankees fans because of his vibrant personality (such as the Swisher Salute during "Roll Call") almost as much as because of his on-field production. Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira might get more attention, but Swisher is just as integral a part to the Yankee offense, and one that the team can ill-afford to lose.

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