ESPN: Yanks Acquire Swisher, Absolve Themselves of Betemit

ESPN is reporting that the Yankees have acquired first baseman/outfield factotum Nick Swisher and righty minor-league pitcher Kanekoa Texeira from the White Sox for minor-league pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez, infielder Wilson Betemit.  Swisher started off the 2008 season with an up-and-down first half before drastically tapering off, hitting .191 after the break.  His 24 HR, 69 RBI, and 82 walks last season weren’t bad.  Yet his .219 average and .332 OBP were well below his career averages and resulted in reduced playing time late last year.  Swisher had a solid 2006 with 35 HR, 94 RBI, .254/.372/.493 for the A’s.  Yet since he became a full-time player in 2005, he’s averaged 132 strikeouts a year.  He has a decent glove, committing only 2 errors at first last season but 5 in the outfield.  I hope that he’s a low-risk acquisition and that he doesn’t signal that the Yankees won’t earnestly pursue Mark Teixeira.  Swisher might make a good bench player, though he’s only 1-11 as a career pinch hitter.

In return, the Yankees gave up righty pitcher Jeff Marquez, who went 6-7 with a 4.69 ERA at SWB, and 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA at Trenton last season.  Though he was good at Trenton in 2007 (15-9, 3.65 ERA, 11 HR in 155 IP), he was cuffed around pretty good in his jump to AAA, giving up 12 homers in 80 2/3 IP in 14 starts with SWB last season.   Marquez has a good sinking fastball.  I’m frankly glad they ditched Betemit, who had good power but always struck out way too often.  He was at best inconsistent in the field, and was at times brutal including when he substituted at first.

More about this later, I have to run.

Back and able to discuss this more fully, Texeira will be 23 next February and went 6-3 with a 1.33 ERA between Single A Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham.  All 51 appearances were in relief, saving 21 games and striking out 60 in 61 innings while surrendering only 2 homers.  It seems as though the Yankees gave up one promising pitcher in Marquez for another in Texeira.

Swisher isn’t a bad acquisition, and I like his glove as well as his power and ability to switch hit.   His flexibility is a plus, but though he has decent speed, he really isn’t suited to be a center fielder but rather, if anything, a corner outfielder.  I also like that he hustles.  He won’t tank plays.  Yet Swisher’s strikeout totals are too high, making him an odd fit for the normally patient Yankees.  This move certainly looks as though the Yankees are either eroding Teixeira’s negotiating position, or are simply willing to move on without him.  I’d prefer it were the former, but my gut tells me that they’re looking for a less expensive first-base alternative ($5.3 million in 2009, $6.75 million in 2010, and $9 million in 2011 with an option in 2012 for $10.25–$1 million buyout) than Teixeira.

Swisher’s power, especially as a lefty, will be a nice fit in Yankee Stadium.  He’s fairly patient also.  This might signal that the bulk of the Yanks’ cash will go toward starting pitching.  It might also allow the Yankees to keep Abreu’s salary demands somewhat lower if he intends to stay, with the Yankees possibly using Swisher for in-house bargaining.  If Abreu wants a three-year deal, sorry, I have to say no.  Two years plus a team option is something I could live with, but not three.  The same goes for Giambi, should he even re-sign.  With Swisher, Giambi is either an inexpensive one-year player, or just plain gone.

I’m not sure if the Yankees intend for Swisher to be their everyday first baseman.  As of today, it seems he would be.  Regardless, the Yankees are quick out of the gate in making moves, which will hopefully be a good sign when the Yankees start shopping for free agents tomorrow.  They’re starting aggressively.

Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 3:32 pm  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I believe that Swisher is a pretty good player. He can play multiple positions, and his career numbers are far better than his 2008 down year. He would be a truly great bench player if he reverts to form. But he is a starter; can play right, center if needed (although I don’t know how good he is), first, and should be able to hit like a capable DH.

  2. no tex… unless swish in gonna play CF, but can he?

  3. I don’t see Swisher playing CF, Mike. I watched him a bit with the Sox and, though he’s not terrible, he’s really not a great CF. I’d prefer he play first if anywhere regularly. Depending on what the Yankees do with Matsui and Damon, he could also play left.

  4. Joe, I think Swisher’s a pretty good player too, and should be better than .219/.332 last year. He’s got good pop in his bat. He probably is meant to start. I’d just rather see the Yanks get Teixeira, so I was speaking somewhat out of hope that Swisher ends up there. But given this move, it seems the Yankees are looking elsewhere, clearly pitching. If nothing else, Swisher’s reasonable salary keeps money free for the arms.

  5. I’ve always liked this guy. Kind of feel bad for him, though. Cashman admitted he’d be the starting first baseman if the season started today, but then quickly added, “but the season doesn’t start today.” Sounds like Swisher will be a super utility man.

  6. Hey, Jason …

    I think the trade for Nick Swisher is a good move by the Yankees, because the deal now gives the Yankees a good “role” player off the bench [something they have not had in recent years].

    That’s my view of this trade, because that is the type of player I consider Swisher to be — a “fill-in” at first base; a player who can play all three outfield positions; pinch-hit; and maybe DH a few games — a solid “bench-player”, but not a starter, [at least, not on the Yankees].

    I really hope the Yankees are not serious about using Swisher as our starting first baseman. I think it is very important for the Yankees to sign Mark Teixeira, an “all-star”, who can be the Yankees starting first baseman for the next 7-10 years.

    Money should not be an issue in any deals the Yankees are considering; and, with this said, I hope the Yankees do not pass on Tex because they now think they have a starting first baseman in Nick Swisher. This approach was tried last year with many “Nick Swisher” type players at [1B – DH -PH] — Duncan; Betemit; Ensberg; Lane; Sexson; etc … and, it was a major failure !!!

    I think it is “a must” for the Yankees to sign Mark Teixeira !!!

    Also, trading away Wilson Betemit as part of the Swisher deal was a big plus for the Yankees.

    Take care, Jason …

    — Jimmy [27NYY]

  7. Thanks for dropping by, Jimmy. I’d love to see Swisher as a strong bench player, but my hunch is he’ll be playing first for the Yanks. It would be great if the Yanks really spent and went after Teixeira, but indications are that they’ll invest in pitching and thus save on position players. I still wouldn’t doubt Giambi re-signing to DH, but my gut says the Yanks are done with him. I don’t want to see the Yankees pass on Teixeira either. But their offer to Sabathia, and likely pending offers to Burnett and Lowe indicate a lot. Not only do they want to spend on arms, they might also be willing to do without Pettite. It could be that they’re driving down Lefty’s price and leverage, but I think the Yanks seem willing to move on across the board in a way I’ve not seen them do in some time.

  8. Thanks for dropping by, Steve. It’s a good point on your part about how Cashman phrased his remarks but, if people like Joel Sherman as well as Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner are to be believed, the arms really will be the focus and they might well live with Swisher. I still want the Yanks to pursue Teixeira, but right now that seems not to be a priority.

  9. Seeing what I’ve seen since this post, it really looks like Swisher is the 1B. The average isn’t much, but his walks and pitches seen per AB are good. I think the Yanks are not into the Teixeira sweepstakes and that the Angels, having not tendered Garrett Anderson and with the probable loss of K-Rod (Mets?) will do all they can to retain Teix.

    Hope all is well.

  10. I get that impression too, Mike. I’d prefer they pursue Teixeira, but that seems unlikely given various statements from Yankee execs and their focus on pitching. I’d be surprised if K-Rod didn’t land with the Mets, given their bullpen problems in recent years and Wagner’s serious injury. Swisher is a good glove at first, he hustles, works counts and walks, and is energetic. I don’t see his .219/.332 repeating themselves in 2009, especially in the Yanks’ lineup.

    All has been well, but very busy with job market stuff and more. In fact, we seem to have cross-posted. I was at The Frieze earlier today after lots of outdoor work. I’ve probably filled a good 45 lawn bags, with several more due this week. It was good working weather outside–32 or so, but only a slight breeze. I still have some wood chopping to do this week as well.

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