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.