Right Field Options for 2013

On November 13, 2008 Brian Cashman made one of his finer trades as the Yankees GM. He traded Wilson Betemit and minor league pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez to the White Sox in exchange for Nick Swisher. Swisher had the worst season of his career in Chicago batting .219, with 24 HR’s 69 RBI, and a .743 OPS. Swisher clashed with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen who played Swisher out of position by playing him in center field. He also had him out of position in the lineup by having him lead off in 29 games. Swisher has revitalized his career with the Yankees, but some are questioning whether his postseason struggles will leave him looking for a new team in 2013.

Swisher has been a really solid player for the Yankees for the last 3 years. He has provided the team with great energy, has hit for good power, and has gotten on base a lot. He is a fan favorite among many and I think upper management has a real affinity for him as well.  I have sat in right field for some games and he is quite entertaining out there. It is hard not to love him. However, the big issue with him has pretty much been an automatic out in the postseason. He has hit .169 in his career in the postseason with 4 HR’s, 6 RBI, and .617 OPS.  Whether to give up on a guy who produces in the regular season but not in the post season is always a hot button issue with fans and is a really tough issue. 

Brian Cashman said after this year’s bitter postseason exit that decisions are not made based solely on playoff performance.  It is hard to base decisions on a few AB’s when you have over 500 AB’s as a sample size in the regular season. Even some Hall of Fame players have had postseason struggles. I can give you two of the greatest hitters ever as examples in Barry Bonds and Willie Mays. Bonds had a career .200 batting average, hit 1 HR, and 6 RBI until he had a monster postseason in 2002 to help the Giants get to the World Series. Mays is a career .247 hitter in the playoffs with 1 HR, and 10 RBI. Now obviously I am not comparing them with Swisher please do not get me wrong. The point I’m making is you really do not know how a guy will perform in the playoffs compared to the regular season. You have no idea of knowing how Swisher or anybody will perform when they get in the playoffs because it is unpredictable. Sure he has a bad history, but that doesn’t mean he cannot turn it around.

I cannot give you an answer as to why Swisher has struggled in the postseason because like I said it is really tough to know. My best guess is the obvious one and that is that he is putting to much pressure on himself. His personality would strike me as someone who would get to hyped up for postseason games and try to do to much.  Some have said he struggles against elite pitching. However, during the regular season he hit .367 against the Rangers, .273 against the Tigers, and .233 against the Rays last year, which is not bad against last year’s playoff teams.

The big issue with replacing Swisher next year is that there are limited options to replace him. They have no outfielder in the upper minor league levels ready to step in.  Everybody’s dream scenario of Matt Kemp got ruined this offseason. The only corner outfield free agent’s next year who are even in Swisher’s league are Josh Hamilton, who is a notch above, and Andre Ethier, who is probably a notch below.  On the field Hamilton is a great fit. He has a swing fit for Yankee Stadium and he would be good enough defensively, since he would be playing in the shallow part of the park.  He won the MVP in 2010 and has proven he can hit elite pitching. The problem is that he is a recovering alcoholic, which stunted his career in the beginning, and there would probably be to many temptations for him in New York. Hamilton just recently had a slight relapse, which he apologized for.  He has also had injury issues as he has only played in 121 games, 133 games, 89 games, and 156 games in the last 4 years respectively. Ethier has played pretty well the last 2 years, but not like his breakout year in 2009 when he hit .272, hit 31 HR’s, and had 106 RBI.                                                             

It will probably come down to Swisher’s year this year as to whether he will be signed again or not. If he hits at the pace he has for his 3 regular season for the Yankees and performs in October then I believe he stays. However, if he does not perform again in October the Yankees may look for a replacement.

About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on February 21, 2012, in Personal Opinion, Player Analysis and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Matthew, very nice piece. But I think there are more factors at work that will decide whether or not Swisher remains a Yankee past this season then just how he performs this season or post season should the Yankees be fortunate enough to make the post season.

    First, there is the expressed desire of the Yankees ownership to get to the the $189MM Luxury Tax Threshold for 2014. It’s just my opinion but I believe Swisher depending on the type of year he has in 2012 will be looking at a deal in the neighborhood of 4yrs/$52 to $60MM total. Also he will be 32 entering the 2013 season. A 4 year deal will take him to 36 years old. Both those dollars and years along with his age going forward I think work against him getting a long term deal from the Yankees.

    Second, The Yankees have a couple of decent if not outright good prospects that should be ready to man the outfield for the Yankees by the 2014 season at virtually no cost.

    I see the 2013 season as sort of a transition year for players for the Yankees in right field, until at least one of the “prospects” is ready in 2014.

    I just don’t see Swisher in the long range plans of the Yankees.

  2. I agree with UYF. I don’t think the Yanks will make the 4-yr commitment to Swisher that he will likely get on the open market.

    I am fine with that. I like Swish and he was a nice pickup by Cash. But IMO, the Yanks need to go another direction. I’ve felt this offense needs to add some pure hitters back to the lineup. Guys who can hit .300+. The yankee team BA has been slowly dropping.

    Swish is a productive player but much of his value is his ability to work the count and hit ahead in the count. When facing pitchers that are aggressive with him he tends to have some trouble.

    Hamilton would be nice but I think he’ll be looking at 4-5 yr deal I don’t know if Cash would consider. I like Ethier. His #s are very similar to Swisher’s except he gets more hits while Swish’s OBP & OPS are beefed up by Walks. Ethier also smokes RHP which I think is a great area of need with the Yanks.

    The 2 guys I really liked this off-season were Carlos Beltran and Seth Smith. beltran had a .900+ OPS from both sides of the plate while Smith crushes RHP and could have been a great platoon partner with A.Jones.

    • Might there be a possibility to work a trade with the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton? He’s under contract through the 2015 season (he signed a 6yr/$50MM deal). That works out to a AAV for Luxury Tax Purposes of $8.33MM per certainly fits within the Yankees needs to get to the tax threshold in 2014.

      It might require a kings ransom, but it’s just a thought.

      • Diamondbacks won the division last year. I don’t see them trading a player like Upton.

        • Matt, the only thing is Upton’s payroll jumps to:
          2013 – $9.75MM
          2014 – $14.25MM
          2015 – $14.5MM

          That might be a little rich for the Diamondbacks blood. And depending on the prospects offered it may be something worth consideration for them.

          • True last year they were only 60.5 PCT capacity with an average attendance of 28,000 but if they stay hot I’m sure they can sell more tickets and make their money to cover costs such as that contract.

            • Matt, this is what ESPN is showing for the Diamondbacks home attendance for 2011:

              Arizona 81Games 2,105,432 Attendance 25,992 Average 53.4%

              • That’s my bad my eyes were drawn to the numbers on the right with the same site you used.

                Good catch my apologizes on the misinformation.

                • In 2010 51.8
                  2011 53.4

                  So attendance did go up by average. I’m sure they have sold more tickets this year from the run they had at the end of the season last year and that number in 2012 I’m sure will go up again.

        • Matt, just additional comment. When you consider the Diamondbacks 2011 payroll was about $53MM and baseball-reference is estimating the Diamondbacks payroll for 2013 to be about $94MM and their 2014 payroll to be about $84MM they may not have a choice. Those are both pretty steep payroll numbers for a team like the Diamondbacks.

      • Upton would be perfect however I don’t see ARZ thinking about moving him until he starts getting expensive after 2013. And you are right, he’d cost a king’s ransom.

        • They could think about moving him after this season. If everyone remembers there was a lot of talk during this past season that they might have been willing to trade him.

          His payroll does jump $3MM from 2012 to 2013 from $6.75MM to $9.75MM. That $9.75MM salary in 2013 is a pretty big chunk of change for a team who traditionally at least over the past few years has had a total payroll in the area of $60MM.

          But to some degree I think how willing they are to move him at the end of this season depends how well they do. If they miss the postseason in 2012 that might do it.

  3. I am hoping Swish blows the doors off this season and still it should be time to let him move on. time waits for no man and we still have plenty of aging playeers and contracts. If needed a stopgap hopig a kid or 2 will ready soon 2014. Thanks for the production and fun you have provided Swish.

    • Good words from both of you Fish and John. i am in the same boat I would rather see Swisher go after this season. Use a stop gap guy for the next two years? Let’s see what Dickerson or someone else could do?

      Can we throw Nunez in right field?

  4. I like Swisher a lot and never wanted to get rid of him, even after the Yanks got eliminated. He’s been one of the best offensive right fielders in the game the past three years, and you don’t sign/trade for guys like that for postseason production. You get them for what they do in the regular season. And Swish has been a lock for .275, 25, and 80 the past three years, and I expect nothing less from him in 2013. If he has another poor postseason, it probably will be his head, but Swish still is in the prime of his career and shows no signs of slowing down.

    • in 2012, i mean. My bad!

    • Hi Brian –
      If Swish has a season like 2010 and hits some in the playoffs it might be difficult to let him leave. However, despite his high OBP, he’s a career .254 hitter who’s only hit above .262 once in his career.

      He’s also very streaky and fell to .232 vs RHP so he’s got to have a good year. IMO, he came into ST out of shape last yr and it led to him being invisible for the first 2 months of the season. Yanks need a big yr from Swish and he’s got to improve as a LH hitter. Can say the same for Tex as Swish and Tex were eerily similar last yr in their strengths and weaknesses.

  5. I agree with matt and uyf, Swisher will be gone after this year. He is the only place the Yanks can save money and won’t give him a long term contract. Dickerson could be a good stop gap or someone else on a one year deal. I’m hoping that Colin Curtis makes a comeback.

  6. I dont see a stopgap next year in RF. You cannot have a stopgap and Gardner as your corner outfielders. You are sacrificing a lot of power from traditional power spots. Now you can say they make up for it at non traditional power spots in CF and 2B but I think they need a RF who will replace Swisher’s production

  7. Upton would be amazing but hard to see

  8. upton is a long shot and id rather see swisher than hunter, and if they do give swisher a deal and they were smart about it, it would be a 3 year deal with an option, many team were interested with swisher this offseason, so after getting another year(meaning 2013 along with 2012) out of him use him as a trade piece, maybe to retain a shortshop of decent quality, jeter cant play forever lets be honest. or a starter to fill the 4-5 slot if hughes doesnt work out.
    if retaining swisher is out of the yankees plans. pick up delmon young, a career .288 hitter, he can support a 4-5 year deal and can give the yankees a 2 hole hitter once jeter leaves. and seeing as right field in yankee stadium is smaller than average a transition for him wouldnt be to terrible seeing as brett gardner went form an everyday center fielder in the minors to a gold glove caliber player in the corner position. or put him in his position in left, if brett gardner is not here after this year (which i highly doubt). after trading montero i dont think the yankees should trade anymore of their top tier prospects unless its for a felix hernandez, or a high caliber SS or OF, asdrubal cabrera/ jay bruce, just to name 1 from each position.

  9. I have a question. But first let me preface it with one comment. I think we will know the Yankees intentions about getting to the Luxury Tax Threshold for 2014 shortly after the 2012 season ends. If the Yankee let both Swisher and Martin walk at the end of the season there is no doubt in my mind they will go for the $189MM threshold number in 2014.

    Anyway here is my question. Who thinks the Yankees will offer arbitration to Swisher after the 2012 season?
    Isn’t it according to the NEW MLB CBA that if they offer him arbitration and a salary that matches or exceeds the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players from the previous season (about $12.5MM) that they would get a draft choice if he declines and some other team signs him. That would seem to me to be a win, win either way for the Yankees. If he accoepts (which I would doubt) the Yankees get him for the 2013 season only. If he doesn’t the Yankees get a draft choice at some point..

  10. I don’t see the Yanks signing Upton, Hamilton, or Hunter. They could play Nunez their or Jeter for one year if you think out of the box. At this point it looks like a platoon in right field next year.

    • Doug, it’s possible but I think unlikely that the Yankees put Nunez in RF even if it just for one season.

      As for Jeter moving. This is only my opinion, but the ONLY way I see Jeter moving out of the SS position is if he dies before his contract expires. If you remember the fit Posada put up at moving to 9th in the batting order I don’t think that would even come close to the stink Jeter would make at the suggestion or insistence from the Yankees that he change positions.

  11. uyf, I think your probably right, that was just off the top of my head. I can see Jeter moving to third in 2 years and A-Rod to DH.

    • Doug…
      I must respectively disagree with you in regards to Jeter. If he can’t play SS he can’t play 3rd base. 3rd is for a heavy hitter and by no stretch is he a heavy hitter…heck, even Brett hit more HRs then Jeter did.
      In other words, if Jeter can’t hit around .280+, where does he fit?

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