Last Friday, I wrote about Russell Martin's impending free agency, and how I'd prefer the Yankees spend the necessary extra to get Mike Napoli if I had a say in these things in a perfect world. Sadly, I do not have a say in any of these things, but if I did, I would also tell the Yankees that they should re-sign Nick Swisher this offseason.
It's a little silly how much negativity surrounds Nick Swisher among Yankees fans. He hasn't really come through in the post season, which is obviously a concern; and Alex Rodriguez will be the first to tell you that people will live and die by those results with little regard for the regular season if you can't produce in October. I just can't understand the Swisher hate, though, because since coming to New York, he has been one of the most valuable right fielders in baseball.
Among right fielders with at least 300 plate attempts, Swisher ranks 7th in WAR, 3rd in home runs, 9th in wOBA, and 7th in walk% between 2009 and 2011. That's an impressive resume for someone who the Yankees may just let walk at the end of the year.
The issue here is that there really is not a viable replacement for Nick Swisher's production. Among the prospects, Zoilo Almonte is probably the closest (currently at AA Trenton and injured), but even if he could be an every day outfielder in the big leagues, it's unlikely he would make up for what we'd lose from Swisher. Mason Williams is still driving the hype train, but there's just no logical way he'd be ready to jump from Low-A Charleston to the majors by next year. Who else is there? Melky Mesa? Pass. Colin Curtis? Pass. Tyler Austin? See: Mason Williams.
With no replacement to be found on the farm, the Yankees would have to look to free agency for good production and someone who fits into their budget ideas. The options there aren't so good either. Here is a comparison of a few of the more well-known possibilities among them:
Who, of these options, would you rather have than Nick Swisher? Ichiro and Torii Hunter are both pushing 40 years old and Andre Ethier just has not been as good as what we already have. There are a few other options, like Carlos Quentin and Xavier Nady; as well as the possibility of signing one of the free agent outfielders who currently plays a different position and switching them around. That would bring in names like Shane Victorino, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, and Michael Bourn, but you can be sure that none of these options will come cheap.
Mike Axisa at RAB wrote about the contract Michael Cuddyer signed with the Rockies (3 years/$31.5 million) as being the type of deal Swisher would probably be seeking. Axisa notes that Swisher is two years younger than Cuddyer and has been more productive over the course of his career. It's possible that the Yankees will be unwilling to give out that kind of contract to Swisher, especially if they have plans to retain Curtis Granderson long term. However, to save money at the position would likely require using a non-flashy prospect, or signing one of the free agent right fielders who isn't seeking a long term deal while hoping that the low level prospects continue to hit as advertised last season.
Retaining Nick Swisher will likely not be the absolute steal that he has been since we traded spare parts for him, but with the hopes for a high level homegrown outfielder in the future playing ball in Charleston for the time being, I think the Yankees would be hard pressed to do better than keeping Swish around. The guy loves New York and loves being a Yankee, if any of that matters to you, so we wouldn't have to hear about some new player not being able to handle all the bright lights and that other nonsense that goes on every time the Yankees sign someone different.
That is not to say that the Yankees should keep him at any price. Giving too many years will always be an issue when it comes to signing guys over 30, and I would be really hesitant to give Swisher more than about four years. If absolutely nothing can be worked out reasonably between the two sides, then I can only hope that the plan is to save money so that they stay far away from players like Josh Hamilton, who will likely cost a fortune. I have an really uneasy feeling that the Yankees will use as much of their spare resources as they can to lock up Russell Martin, but here's hoping they choose Swisher instead.