One of the main targets in the sights of Yankee fans looking for someone to blame for the team’s 2011 post season failure has been Nick Swisher. Some fans have never liked his high-energy act, feeling he doesn’t fit the ‘True Yankee’ mold of more quit professionals like Jeter or Mo. I’m not quite sure what a ‘True Yankee’ means, since the greatest player in the history of the franchise was anything but a quiet professional on or off the field. The (arguably) 2nd best was quite the Hell-raiser as well. There’s room for all sorts of personalities on a 25 man roster, but I will admit that I prefer players from the Gehrig-DiMaggio-Jeter-Mo mold more than others. But that’s a personal preference of mine. It has nothing to do with making sound roster decisions.
Swisher’s critics often point to his thus far anemic post season numbers (.169/.295/.323 in 147 PAs) as evidence that he’s not the type of player who will get the job done in October. They say he’s a dead red hitter who has too many holes in his swing and can be pitched to by the better pitchers. There’s nothing other than a small sample of bad October numbers to back this up with. His spray chart show him to be a player who hits the ball to all fields, swings at strikes, takes his walks. In other words, he’s a good hitter no matter how you measure it. In his early days there were doubts if he would ever be more than a the classic Moneyball hitter, namely someone who hits .230 with power and patience. But in his 3 years with the Yanks, he’s batted .266 across 3 seasons. Defensively, he’s not the most pretty or skilled outfielder but he makes up for it with excellent instincts and a baseball IQ that belies his ‘good ole boy’ nature. He has been known to be streaky, we saw that in his first 2 months with the team in 2009 and again the final two months of the 2011 season. He did suffer a platoon split this year, batting .327 vs Lefties and .232 vs Righties, but in 2010 (vs L-.294/vs R-.285) and 2009 (vs L-.244/vs R-.251) there was no such issue.
So we’ve established that Nick is good at baseball, no matter how you slice it. Now let’s look at who might be available to replace him should the Yanks opt to decline his 10 mil option for 2012. Here’s the list of available free agents:
Willie Bloomquist (34) – $1.1MM mutual option with a $150K buyout
Milton Bradley (34)
Michael Cuddyer (33)
David DeJesus (32)
J.D. Drew (36)
Kosuke Fukudome (35)
Willie Harris (34)
Brad Hawpe (33)
Jason Kubel (29)
Ryan Ludwick (33)
Xavier Nady (33)
Magglio Ordonez (38)
Cody Ross (31)
Nick Swisher (31) – $10.25MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Josh Willingham (33)
As you can see, there’s not much out there that’s all that exciting. Some have floated the Carlos Beltran option, namely Joel Sherman and Chad Jennings. Sherman estimates Beltran will cost 42 mil over 3 years (14 per). While his offensive numbers are enticing (.900+ OPS from both sides of the plate in 2011) I can’t see rolling the dice on someone who’s had the knee problems that Beltran had the past two seasons. As Chad noted, Carlos “didn’t play more than 81 games in 2010 or 2009, and this season he was hurt soon after being traded to the Giants.” The last thing the Yanks need is to get older and more expensive. Its tough to argue the Yanks should walk away from a 1 year/10.25 club option for a healthy 31 year old and lock in to 3 years/42 mil for a 34 year old with bad knees. The best option for the 2012 Yankees in RF is already on the team.
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