One year from now, there are going to be two questions plaguing the Yankees. One is going to be relatively easy to solve. The other SHOULD be, but may not be. Number one, obviously, is the impending retirement of Mariano Rivera. The “pain” of Mariano leaving won’t really hit until the season when it’s the ninth inning and someone that isn’t Mo comes charging out to some song that isn’t “Enter Sandman.” On a side note, after Rivera retires, I will have no reason to ever listen to that song again. Anyway, that part of replacing Mariano will be hard because it’s the “in practice” side of things. Obviously, no one will pitch just like Mo. However, the Yankees do have a lot of options to replace Rivera. In the organization, they’ll have Rafael Soriano, who’ll be entering the last year of his contract. They’ll have David Robertson. They could even have Joba Chamberlain step into the role. Really, they shouldn’t need to look outside for a replacement.
Where they may need to look elsewhere is in the outfield. While I’m 99% sure the Yankees the Yankees will pick up Curtis Granderson‘s option, Nick Swisher will be a free agent. If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the last few years, then you know I’m an unabashed Swisher fan and will defend to the theoretical death just about anything he does on the baseball field. Since joining the Yankees in 2009, Swisher has hit to a .370 wOBA and a 126 wRC+, while being worth 11.0 fWAR and 11.0 bWAR. Off the field, he’s been nothing but a model citizen and has been, by all accounts, a fantastic presence in the once-stodgy Yankee clubhouse. The team has all the reason in the world to bring him back and if I were betting on it, I’d bet a fair amount on Nick Swisher remaining a Yankee for 2013 and beyond. Of course, like everything, that will all come down to cost. After the contract Michael Cuddyer got with the Yankees, there’s no way Nick Swisher will make under $12M AAV in his next contract. That’s fine, and I think the Yankees could justify paying him that or even a little more (up to $14M?). The trick will be in the years. I’d have to imagine that Swish will ask for four years, though the Yankees will prefer to go for three years.
What’ll be interesting about these upcoming negotiations is that the Yankees have no internal candidates ready to replace Swisher in right field and the free agent class doesn’t offer much. The once-counted-upon free agency of Matt Kemp is gone and I don’t think the Yankees want to invest big money or years in Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, etc. (Bourn would be an interesting option if the Yankees wanted the best defensive outfield in baseball, but I’ll take the offense from Swisher).
The other issue that could factor in is if Cole Hamels does indeed hit free agency and the Yankees want to make a big splash for him. If that’s the case (and I hope it is), then maybe the eye-on-2014 budget squeezes Swisher out. If that were to happen, I’d be (reluctantly) happy to see Swisher leave. Hamels and no Swisher, to me, is better than Swisher and no Hamels. Of course, this may not be the binary decision I’m making it out to be and the Yankees could find a way to make it work. If that were to happen, well, that would be just fine and dandy.
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