After signing a minor league deal with the Yankees, Nick Swisher has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He has six hits with one home run and three RBI in 17 plate appearances over just four games, and now people are starting to talk about him like he's a clear option for the Yankees at this point in the season. However, thanks to the versatility of the big league club, the truth is that it's going to be a lot harder for him to make the team than many realize.
His clearest path to making the team is through an injury on the major league roster. At this point in his career, Swisher might just be a first baseman, meaning that Mark Teixeira or Dustin Ackley would have to get hurt for him to become an actual possibility. As of now, the Yankees signed him to serve as an alternative to Chris Parmelee–who has, predictably, not hit for Scranton in the early goings of the 2016 season. They did it before in 2013 when they signed Lyle Overbay in the last days of spring training to avoid employing Juan Rivera at first base. Think of Swisher as Overbay, but if Tex was still healthy and the Yankees had no purpose for him.
The only other way he makes the team is if he replaces Dustin Ackley on the roster as the backup first baseman. Both can play first base, but Ackley is younger, healthier, and far more versatile at this point–able to play five positions against Swisher's two (but really more like one thanks to his bum knees). He also hasn't played much, getting into only three games to this point, so if the Yankees are going to give up on the 28-year-old that cost them two prospects, and is still arbitration eligible through next season, he's going to have to struggle for a few months first. Remember, they didn't get rid of David Carpenter until June, so he will have plenty of time to contribute.
Looking at the whole picture, the Yankees aren't going to do anything with Aaron Hicks after trading for him in the offseason, and the team needs the backup infielder role Ronald Torreyes is filling right now. There's just not a lot of room on the roster this early into the season for a guy who is really going to be stuck at one position–and that's ok. It wouldn't exactly be a good thing if there was, especially when you consider that Swisher is in his age-35 season, hasn't been good in two years, has two surgically repaired knees, and was basically ditched by two different teams in less than a year.
After being released by the Braves last month, any team that signed Swisher to a major league contract would only have to pay the league minimum while Cleveland and Atlanta picked up the remaining $15 million on his deal. Still though, he could be considered toxic on the open market, and if he opts out on June 15, maybe no one bites. We don't know what the situation will be like in two months, and he's not exactly a hot commodity, so it's worth it to wait and see how things turn out. Maybe he's needed by then, maybe he ends up staying in Scranton, or maybe he leaves, signs elsewhere, and we never miss him. It doesn't matter, because if the Yankees are in a position where they need Nick Swisher in 2016, then they've already lost.