Nick Swisher will be one of the younger free agents in 2013.The looming question is, ishe worth resigning?
In this day and age of Sabermetrics and Money Ball, he really has good portfolio value. The question of his value may need a benchmark to be compared to. As fickle as it may seem let’s look at a few. There’s the“The Yankee Standard” of Paul O’Neill and the other, possible free agent outfielders, the Yankee farmhands, and the possible trade acquisitions as the season progresses.
Swisher and O’Neill’s stats are very similar for each of their age 28-31 seasons (Swisher’s last three seasons). O’Neill had a .806 OPS and a 122 OPS+ while Swisher had a .854 OPS and a 123 OPS+.
O’Neill really broke out the following year in 1994 and put up a .942 OPS and 141 OPS+ over the next three season. Swisher has averaged a solid 149 games played per season over seven years, a sign of amazing durability, so without any injury issues, Swisher could play well into his late 30’s with the Yankees. Another two factors to consider is Swisher is a switch hitter and is capable of playing first base. This switch hitting ability may also lead to Swisher becoming a full time DH. One would have to think that in this comparison Swisher measures favorably to the standard set by O’Neil.
So signing Swisher back certainly seems like a viable option, but with the Yankees payroll concerns over the next couple of years they may look at other options.
With a number of aging hitters already in the lineup, the Yankees would likely try to avoid replacing Swisher, one of their younger hitters, with somebody older so we’ll eliminate anyone older than Swisher in terms of competition. This leaves us with Andre Ethier, Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, and Delmon Young.
Three of the four have had some injury issues in the last two years. Young is the youngest and is currently ticketed to be the DH with the Tigers. Delmon’s walk to strike ratio (23:85) isn’t very favorable either. Jackson’s OPS is .200 points lower than that of Swisher. Both Quentin (.815) and Ethier (.841) have OPS’ over the last three years worth considering. Ethier’s strike out to walk ratio is better than Quintin’s, but his home run and OPS have decreased since last year. Ethier is a lefty, which would help in Yankee Stadium, while Jackson and Quentin are both righties.
Now who’s “down on the farm” as possible replacements? There is Mason Williams and Ravel Santana, who are probably the Yankees best two outfield prospects, but they are too far away from the majors to help next year. Zoilo Almonte is probably a more realistic option and he has had an excellent showing in spring training demanding the attention of the coaching staff. That could go a long way to erase his drop off last season when he was moved from High-A to Double-A. Read our own Greg Corcoran’s article on Almonte for more on him.
As competitive as the AL. East is there is always the possibility of finding new players as teams make trades to lower payroll or to acquire talent. In the case of the Dodgers, Ethier may become available during the season especially with new ownership. Closer to home one would have to ask if the Orioles would be willing to trade within the division. Adam Jones will also be a free agent after 2013, although trades between the two teams rarely ever happen.
Heck, Nick Markakis may also become available to get pitching prospects for Baltimore and if the O’s were up to trade with the Yankees they might be interested in him as well. His .351 OBP was solid last year, but his .756 OPS is not as impressive. As a lefty he could do some damage in Yankee Stadium, but his power has declined in each of the last three years.
When you get right down to the question of re-signing Nick Swisher I would have to say he may be one of the better options available. He has the intangibles of taking pitches, he knows his role as he’s moved around the batting order, he’s shown durability as he’s played at least 150 games a year as a Yankee while putting up a solid OPS each year. The biggest problem will be, can they afford him.