Free Agent Nick Swisher is looking for a big Payday. Photo Please Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Separating Fact From Perception Part II Nick Swisher


This is the second in my series about hyped free agents and today I’m looking at Nick Swisher. While Swisher’s isn’t exactly hyped, there’s been a lot of talk about him as an option for Atlanta so he’s worth a look. Besides, there are only three players I hear a lot of hype about, B. J. Upton, Michael Bourn and Zack Greinke. I covered Upton in my first post and don’t really see the need to cover Bourn since he was a Brave for a season and a half. Greinke’s not really a player the Braves are considering though in my opinion we will need an Ace type power pitcher before we can be a real World Series contender. If you disagree wait until I write and explain why I believe that before jumping on me with both feet okay? In any event Greinke’s not really being hyped as much as he being accepted rightfully as the only number one in the bunch. The Braves are however in need of a corner outfielder and Swisher fits that category so onward and upward.

Nick Swisher By The Numbers

I’m going to use the same sort of numbers I used for Upton to describe Swisher. If you haven’t read that piece I suggest that you do to find out why I chose the way I did. Duplicating it here in this age of hyperlinks is redundant and boring.

Batter Up

Nick Swisher was drafted as the 16th pick in the first round by Oakland in 2002 and played his first game for them in 2004. In 2005 he played mostly right field for the As. In 2006 he split his time between left and first base and in 2007 he was almost equally split between first, center and right. While Swisher’s batting average was never much to shout about in Oakland he always had a respectable OBP with good slugging and very high ISO rates. Those numbers and his versatility probably led the the White Sox to give up Fautino De Los Santos, Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney for him in 2008.

Chicago wasn’t a happy place for Swisher and most think of it as a lost season.  Looking closely you see that his faithful OBP, slugging and ISO never left and his lowly .219 batting average reflects an equally sad .249 BAbip. This took me to the batted ball numbers and they look very much like every other season in his career. I didn’t watch the White Sox at all much less pay attention to Swisher but the numbers seem to indicate he hit in a lot of bad luck that year. The Yankees thought Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira were worth giving up former Brave Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez and in 2009 Swisher was a Yankee.

Year Team G PA HR R RBI BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG WAR
2004 Athletics 20 71 2 11 8 11% 16% .167 .271 .250 .352 .417 0
2005 Athletics 131 522 21 66 74 11% 21% .210 .265 .236 .322 .446 2.1
2006 Athletics 157 672 35 ## 95 14% 23% .239 .283 .254 .372 .493 3.9
2007 Athletics 150 659 22 84 78 15% 20% .193 .301 .262 .381 .455 3.9
2008 White Sox 153 588 24 86 69 14% 23% .191 .249 .219 .332 .410 1.3
2009 Yankees 150 607 29 84 82 16% 21% .249 .272 .249 .371 .498 3.2
2010 Yankees 150 635 29 91 89 9% 22% .223 .335 .288 .359 .511 4.1
2011 Yankees 150 635 23 81 85 15% 20% .188 .295 .260 .374 .449 3.8
2012 Yankees 148 624 24 75 93 12% 23% .201 .324 .272 .364 .473 3.9

Statistics Via Fangraphs

Yankee Stadium was a friendly landing spot for Swisher and after a 2009 resembling his Oakland days he turned in consistently higher batting averages and while some say the friendly right field porch helped him have two 29 homer years the truth is that he hit better in the road than at home. The Yankees made him their permanent right fielder except for spells at first when Mark Teixeira needed a rest. They even moved Ichiro Suzuki to left after trading to get him from Seattle in order to keep Swisher in right. He earned $10.25M from the Yankees last season and was due a big raise in 2013 but the new teeth in the luxury tax included in the new CBA forced the Yankees to reduce payroll and while they did make him a qualifying offer (one year $13.3M) Swisher declined in search of his big payday.

Defense

As you’ve seen Swisher is a multi-position player – not a utility man in the Martin Prado class but certainly a versatile player wherever he’s been.  Like most non-specialist players Swisher isn’t superb at any of them but usually falls into the average to above average defensive ratings. Below are defensive numbers from Fangraphs, first for 2012 then for the last four years shown alongside those of other free agent outfielders. Free Agents have a green background while the two trade candidates I includes are left white

2012          
Name Pos Inn DRS UZR UZR/150
Alex Gordon LF 1424 24 14.1 11.7
Cody Ross LF 166 -1 0.3 -3.6
Cody Ross RF 766 0 3.5 6.3
Delmon Young LF 226 -3 -4.2 -31
Ichiro Suzuki LF 236 -2 1.8 9.1
Ichiro Suzuki RF 1072 11 12.7 16.4
Jonny Gomes LF 258 -2 -1.5 -7.7
Jonny Gomes RF 23 0 0.8 31.5
Josh Willingham LF 1027 -13 -7.9 -8.7
Nick Swisher 1B 259 5 0.9 4.7
Nick Swisher RF 907 0 2.7 3.4
Ryan Ludwick LF 929 -5 -4.7 -7.6
Shane Victorino LF 411 7 6 19.3
Torii Hunter RF 1112 15 10.4 13

Please note that the DRS number at Fangraphs shows as additive so you get a number like 47 for a Gold Glove like Alex Gordon instead of something meaningful. The Fielding Bible says that DRS is not additive nor is it something that can be averaged. I chose to show an average DRS rather than the cumulative value Fangraphs shows. It’s easier for me to understand.

Name Pos Inn UZR UZR/150 ADRS
Alex Gordon LF 3219.2 27.9 10.3 11.8
Cody Ross RF 1917.1 1.4 0.9 1.3
Cody Ross LF 786.2 -2.5 -5 -0.8
Cody Ross CF 1773.1 -6.3 -5.2 -1.3
Delmon Young LF 3305 -31.2 -12.9 -6.8
Ichiro Suzuki RF 5108.1 30.6 8.4 2.5
Ichiro Suzuki LF 236 1.8 9.1 -0.5
Ichiro Suzuki CF 38 -0.9 -21.3 -0.8
Jonny Gomes RF 341.2 -5.8 -18.6 -1.0
Jonny Gomes LF 2099 -15.4 -9.3 -6.0
Josh Willingham RF 264.1 -1.6 -7.3 0.0
Josh Willingham LF 3429 -19.3 -7.3 -4.0
Nick Swisher RF 4252.2 9.8 3 -3.0
Nick Swisher LF 36 -0.2 -5.4 -0.3
Nick Swisher 1B 428 -0.5 -0.7 0.8
Ryan Ludwick CF 31 0.5 18.8 -0.3
Ryan Ludwick RF 2224.1 0.2 0.1 0.3
Ryan Ludwick LF 1947.1 -4.6 -3.7 -2.3
Shane Victorino LF 411 6 19.3 1.8
Shane Victorino CF 4685.2 -1.1 -0.1 -0.3
Torii Hunter RF 2702 12.8 6.7 5.8
Torii Hunter CF 1814.1 -5.5 -4.1 0.5

Nothing significant enough in those numbers to affect a decision whether or not to make him an offer. Left fielders have a lower defensive bar than right fielders Presumably because of the throw from right to third, I never understood why but it has always been thus.

Conclusion

At age 32 Nick Swisher is said to be looking for Jason Werth  money ; $126M for seven years (through age 39). I hope he doesn’t look too long. Leaving aside the massive overpay by the Nationals in order to make a splash by signing a ‘name’ free agent like Werth,  the free agent market has changed due in large part to the new CBA and luxury tax penalties.

Anyone signing Swisher has to give the Yankees a draft pick as well as look for luxury tax room. There aren’t many teams willing to do that for a 32 year old corner outfielder and Swisher has some baggage.

Swisher carries the stigma of a post season flop, something any team spending that kind of money wants to avoid because the post season is their goal. His post season numbers with the Yankees have not been up to his in season numbers but then most players have that problem. Swisher’s numbers are emphasized because he’s a Yankee.  Being a Yankee adds another piece of baggage; the lineup around him. There’s a theory out there that because the pitcher’s choice was to pitch to Swisher instead of Teixeira, Robinson Cano or Alex Rodriguez, most decided to take a chance on Swisher. The lineup around a hitter certainly makes a difference to the number of good pitches he gets and I believe Swisher did benefit from this.   Finally one story rated him as one of the leagues’ most annoying players and there’s a feeling that Swisher whines a lot. This post season he complained about the way the fans treated him when he wasn’t going well. That simply isn’t going to fly on a lot of teams.

For your team to sign Nick Swisher they must be willing to commit a salary with an average annual value of $18 million to him for the next seven years. They must also understand that his bat will slow down and his defense will deteriorate in that time and trading the contract will not be easy.

That’s A Wrap

I’ve never been a Nick Swisher fan, something about watching him just rubs me a little bit the wrong way.  But I don’t have to play with him or be in the dugout with him. The year withe the White Sox everyone says was so bad looks a lot like Dan Uggla’s 2011 and was better than Uggla’s 2012 and he’s a 140 K a year guy. His in season offensive numbers say he fits what the Braves need in left field;  every number but the one he wants  on his paycheck that is.  If the Braves could get Swisher on a three or four year deal at around $13M (4 @ 52m) and fill the CF slot with a Denard Span type I’d be okay with it. But at $18M for more than four years I’d pass an dI think Frank Wren will as well.

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  • fireboss

    To be clear I doubt Swisher’s an option the Braves will consider. Someone will give him stupid money – maybe Seattle or Detroit. Seattle is a black hole for free agents. If he were smart he’d go somewhere he is likely to win a ring regardless of the money. We’re talking 5 million a year vs a ring. I’d take the ring

  • Lee Trocinski

    Just to clarify the new draft pick compensation system, the Yankees will not be given a draft pick if someone else signs Swisher. The first-round pick (top 10 protected) of the team that signs him vanishes, while the Yankees get a compensation pick between the 1st and 2nd round.

  • http://twitter.com/BC_Clemmons BC

    I would have been ok if Swisher would have been in the Vazquez trade a few years ago, as far as signing him now….Pass

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