Acquiring Swisher worth the gamble for Yankees

November, 13, 2008
The Yankees may not get much of a return out of Nick Swisher, but there's a chance that they got a good offensive player, while the White Sox get rid of Swisher but don't get anything valuable in return for their trouble.

Swisher is coming off of a horrific year, looking slow and even apathetic, almost as if his patience at the plate was the result of indifference rather than a desire to work the count. He can still run into a ball if a pitcher makes a mistake, but his bat was slow and he would foul off average fastballs and miss plus heat entirely. Mike Lowell had a year like that (without the apathy) before coming to the Red Sox and rebounded completely; Andruw Jones had a year like that (with the apathy and some extra pounds) and slid further into the abyss. It's a gamble for the Yankees, but with the upside that they get an average to above-average bat at first base or in left field if it works out, and the cost in players and money (Swisher is owed $26 million through 2011) is not that great to them.

The throw-in coming to the Yanks, Kanekoa Texeira, is a classic sinker/slider reliever, with his slider being a potential out pitch, but with below-average command. Even if the command doesn't improve, he'll pitch in the big leagues, and has a chance to be a late-innings guy if it does improve because he already misses bats and keeps the ball in the park.

Of course, the ultimate question here for the Yankees is whether it pushes them out of the Mark Teixeira market, or is simply a backup plan/leverage play to keep the price down on Teixeira by removing their own incentive to overpay for him. The Yanks could still sign Teixeira and play Swisher in left, benching Hideki Matsui (often hurt and not very good when he plays) or just give him away to anyone willing to pay the postage, and it seems a lot more likely that they'd do that than stand pat with Swisher at first and Matsui in left, a combination that could easily leave the Yanks with below-average bats at three or four positions if they don't also upgrade in center field.

The White Sox get … well, it's hard to see what they saw in this package of players. Wilson Betemit can fill in at several positions, but his plate discipline is poor and he can't hit left-handers at all; he's a fair utility player, but barring an age-27 power surge or a sudden interest in playing defense, that's all. Right-hander Jeff Marquez has to be one of the most overhyped Yankee prospects in recent memory; he's ordinary, with an average fastball that has some sink and an inconsistent but occasionally above-average split-change, but limited feel for pitching. He could be a middle reliever, especially if he stops throwing his mediocre curve, but that's probably it, and he doesn't have anything to miss bats. (Of course, the White Sox will immediately teach him a cutter, so stay tuned.) Right-hander Jhonny Nunez also profiles as a middle reliever, with a little more fastball than Marquez has and a tighter slider, but below average command and control and a longish arm action that may make command difficult for him.

The White Sox gave up Gio Gonzalez, Faustino de los Santos, Ryan Sweeney and $3.5 million, and their return is one year of Swisher plus Betemit, Marquez and Nunez. That's an impressive run of trading down in value.


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