Less than a week ago, Nick Swisher found himself out of a game for tightness in his left groin. Yesterday, again he was pulled, this time with tightness in his right groin. Now before you hit the panic switch, groin injuries are fairly common at this time of year, the point of spring training is to loosen players up, so no further tests are planned on the 31 year old. Still, it had me thinking what would happen if Swisher faced a season ending injury. Apart from catcher, there aren’t many positions I would expect the Yankees to immediately trade for a replacement, but right field is one of them.
With a budget to meet in 2014 and outfield prospects a few years away, I expect the Yankees to make a move for a cheap young outfielder after Swisher’s contract expires at the end of the year. The 2013 free agent market houses some impressive options for the team, but all at a significant price. Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Quentin all stand out as pricey options for a team with little budget room. Another issue with spending on the free agent market is age. The Yankees have a number of aging hitters on the payroll going forward, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter. Signing a 32 year old player like Hamilton or Victorino may make sense next offseason, but it’ll only be a few years before these current stars reach their mid-30’s, along with even older players on the projected payroll. Perhaps the best option available would be the 28 year old B.J. Upton, but again we have to worry about pricey contracts interfering with the 2014 budget. For this reason, the team will likely be looking for a young cost controlled outfielder.
Assuming a season ending injury for Nick Swisher, I don’t expect them to rely on Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez as a defensive platoon, nor do I expect them to count on an in-house option such as Chris Dickerson. A major injury would push the Yankees’ hand onto an early trade market. If the Michael Pineda trade lends itself to any current front office tactic, the team will likely target a young cost controlled player with high upside. Though they may prefer more major league experience/success, Domonic Brown is a good example of the type of player they may target.
Barring some sort of miracle in the minors, a trade for a young high-upside corner outfielder appears inevitable. There is no cause for concern yet, but if Swisher finds himself missing significant time, I expect some hefty moves this season. His health is something to keep an eye on, for the sake of his Yankee career and likely the Yankee career for some of the top prospects.
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