Friday, November 14, 2008

The Nick Swisher Deal: Brilliant or Bust?

Yesterday it was announced that the Yankees completed a trade with the White Sox that sent Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez to Chicago in return for Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira. To analyze this deal we need to look at both value and impact of the deal.

The trade easily favors the Yankees in that Betemit was a one dimensional player whose one dimension he wasn't really that good at. Marquez and Nunez were both prospects with promise, but they were never considered blue chips and we all know that prospects typically don't pan out. Texeira finished this last season in double A as a closer posting a 1.33 ERA and recording 21 saves. According to the press release Texeira had the organizations best slider. But alas, the same prospect rule applies to Texeira that applies to Marquez and Nunez, most prospects don't pan out. Not saying that none of them will, just stating that its difficult to gauge their value.

I don't think any Yankee fan would disagree that moving Betemit for Swisher was a great deal, but what do we have in Swisher? Many will look to Swisher's year with Chicago and write him off, especially if it means we don't go for Mark Teixeira (more on that later). But to value Swisher based on his worse season would be the same as writing off Cano because he had a faulty 2008 season. Swisher finished this season with a .219 average, 24 homeruns, 69 RBI's, and an OBP of .332. If you were to average his previous two seasons you would get a .260 batting average, 29 homeruns, 87 RBI's and a .377 OBP. Those are not bad numbers for a first baseman. Further more, last season was Swisher's 4th full big league season, the same as Cano. He is still young and I would be surprised if he's reached the height of his talent.

Now the question arises of whether getting Swisher takes us out of the Teixeira run. Unless the Yankees are planning on trading someone it would appear that the Yankees have filled their first base need and would not have to go after Teixeira. Teixeira is obviously the superior choice. He has a career average of .290 with a career OBP of .378. He hits 30+ homeruns a season and regularly drives in 100+ runs. But that kind of talent comes with a price tag, and when you're a Boras client, that price tag tends to be exagerated. Would Teixeira for 8 years and $140-$160 million and a no-trade clause be out of the question? Further more, tieing up Teixeira for 8 years also ties up first base for 8 years, which is the natural relocation destination of slow moving catchers with shoulder problems. Teixeira won't want to share time there, and at $17-$20 million a season, the Yankees won't want him to share time there. Swisher on the other hand is signed through 2011 with a 2012 club option. His salaries over that time are as follows: 2009 - $5.3 million, 2010 - $6.75 million, 2011 - $9 million and a $10.25 million club option for 2012. That is extremely reasonable, and very easy to move if a trade presents itself. If we sign Teixeira, we would not be able to trade him not just because of the no-trade clause that is likely to be written into the contract, but also because we would have to eat a large portion of his contract if we did move him. Right now we have too many players we cannot move. By and large, they're players we wouldn't want to move, but if it ever came to that point, their contracts, their no-trade clauses, and their ages will probably disallow any moves to happen that will bring back anything of comparable value.

My conclusion? Teixeira is a superior first baseman and hitter, but as Fred Trigger put it in the comments section, Nick Swisher is the poor man's Teixeira. So why are the Yankees going this route? Because Swisher is a much better value than Teixeira. You get less production from Swisher, but for $10 million less, when can go for a few less jacks. It allows the Yankees to be more flexible and at a much lower cost. Plus, by all counts, Swisher seems to be a good teammate that would mesh well in the Yankee clubhouse. Need some convincing? Check out this video on the Coast-to-Coast Baseball blog. That alone sells Swisher to me.

Lastly, this does bring more prominence to one option the Yankees could use to fulfill the big bat deficit. By passing on Teixeira the Yankees could afford to bring Manny Ramirez in for 2 years. The Yankees could match and go beyond the Dodger's reported offer, and include a club option with a decent opt out. Yes, that kind of money gives the Yankees an immovable player, but for 2 years, who cares? I know Manny is controversial, but a bigger bat you can't find, and he has it out for the Red Sox, which is a good thing for us. I know the Yankees want two pitchers, but loosing Abreu and Giambi necessitates another bat in the lineup, and quite frankly, Manny's is the best on the market.

No comments: