Nick Swisher is an impending free agent. The Yankees picked up his $10.25M option for this year, but that's partly because they didn't have any better options. Who will be manning right field in 2013 and beyond?
Swisher will be 32 next season, and probably into his decline phase. He's been a great addition to the lineup (126 wRC+ with the Bombers), but I think the only way the Yanks bring him back is on a team-friendly contract, i.e. short-term (two years max) at no more than $10M per year. That might even be too much considering the club's desire to get payroll under $189M for 2014. So let's look at all the options -
Impending free agents (age in 2013):
Michael Bourn (30): Pros - He's a speedster (215 SB the last four years, the best in MLB) and a great defender. Cons - Bourn's a below average hitter and hasn't played right field since 2007, so would he stay in center while Curtis Granderson moved to RF?
Melky Cabrera (28): Could we see a return of the Melk-man at the end of the season? Pros - We know he has the arm for right field, but what about the bat? He'd been a below average hitter before 2011, but then somehow "turned it on" in Kansas City. He abandoned his on-base skills in favor of swinging for the fences, and it worked: Melky slugged a career high .470 with 18 home runs, good for a 118 wRC+. He'll be just 28. Cons - He had a dreadful .034 Isolated Discipline and hasn't played much right field (27 games the last two years). 2011 could be a fluke - he had a career high .332 BABIP (despite all the other peripherals being normal). Management seemed to think his relationship with Robbie Cano was detrimental. Would they not want the two of them back together?
Shin-Soo Choo (30): Pros - The first actual right fielder so far. Not only that, but he's a damn good right fielder (BRef has him at +8 runs saved per season while UZR has him at +2) with a great bat (~130 wRC+ the last three years). Cons - He's had a fairly extensive injury history, hitting the DL thrice over the last two years.
Andre Ethier (31): Pros - Another true right fielder with a good bat (126 wRC+ over the last three years). Cons - Not as young or as good a defender as I thought (anywhere from -7 to -13 per season).
Josh Hamilton (32): Pros - The best outfielder available with the potential to win a triple crown and play excellent defense. Cons - Hasn't played right field since 2009, and then only sparingly. Has a well known history of injuries and off-the-field problems that New York City might exacerbate. He's only hit the DL once since 2008, but nagging injuries have prevented him from playing in more than 133 games since then.
Torii Hunter (37): Pros - Played a lot of right field in 2011 and still brings a plus bat to the lineup (~118 wRC+ over the last three years). Cons - His hitting has declined each of the last two years. His defense is overrated thanks to a number of highlight catches (BRef and UZR show that his defense is right around average).
Ichiro (39): Pros - Great defensive right fielder with speed and excellent "hit for average" skills. His abnormally low .295 BABIP last year suggests he was bit unlucky. Cons - I bet he retires or goes back to Japan after his current contract is up, considering he'll be 39. He's coming off his worst year (-.4 bWAR) while his defense ranked below average for the first time.
Carlos Quentin (30): Pros - A true right fielder with a plus bat. Has improved each of the last two seasons and would still be in his prime. Cons - His poor defense prevents him being more valuable. Has never played more than 131 games in his six-year career.
Nick Swisher (32): Pros - Also a true right fielder with a plus bat, only Swisher plays average to above defense. And he's been healthy, playing in 150 contests each year in the Bronx. Cons - His baserunning? He's on the wrong side of 30?
B.J. Upton (28): Pros - He'll only be 28, has improved each of the last two years and has good speed (averaged 41 SB the last four years). He's remained healthy, playing in at least 144 games since 2007. Cons - Hasn't played a single pro inning in right field, so although he's a plus defender in center, would he (or Granderson) accept a move to the corner?
Shane Victorino (32): Pros - Maybe the best defender on this list. A ~118 wRC+ over the last three seasons. Cons - Hasn't played right field since 2008, and might've been a bit lucky last year (5.1 bWAR).
Delmon Young (27): Pros - The youngest player so far brings a boatload of potential just as he's entering his prime years. Cons - Almost everything else. He's been an average hitter at best with awful defense. He would be a total "let's hope he can reach a sliver of his potential" signing.
Justin Upton (25): Arizona listened to offers for the phenom this offseason but never found anything worthwhile. He's owed more than $45M over the next your years, so look for Arizona to shop him again after 2012 (he's signed through 2015). Pros - Where to start? Young, (mostly) healthy, already an excellent player (~127 wRC+ over the last three years), and a true right fielder with plus defense (via both BRef and UZR) and speed. Cons - It would require a boatload of prospects to land him. Start with Manny Banuelos and Gary Sanchez and go from there.
Take a chance on me!
- The more I think about it, the more that re-signing Swisher (would he accept a two-year deal?) makes the most sense.