Free-agent matchmaker: Nick Swisher

Mike Stobe

Where will Nick Swisher take his talents? Where should he take them?

If you're looking for consistency, Nick Swisher is your man.

Year Age AB HR OPS OPS+
2006 25 556 35 .864 125
2007 26 539 22 .836 126
2008 27 497 24 .743 93
2009 28 498 29 .869 122
2010 29 566 29 .870 129
2011 30 526 23 .822 120
2012 31 537 24 .837 126

That's really, really hard to do. There's literally a nine-point gap in his OPS+ totals, with the exception of just one year (in which he cost the White Sox the services of Gio Gonzalez, by the way). Swisher has been healthy and productive -- and eerily consistent -- in six of the last seven seasons. He's an outfielder with power, which is in short supply this offseason, and he's a switch-hitter who is good enough to start against righties and lefties alike. He kind of fields like he's wearing one of those two-man horse costumes with a mannequin stuffed in the other side, but he's been a good, valuable player.

There's a catch, though. Well, there are two catches. The first is that Swisher is 32, and that's about the time things start happening to players.

Screen_shot_2012-12-06_at_3

Things like their noses falling off, yeah. Ligaments and tendons, too. As with any over-30 free agent, the last year or two of the deal probably isn't going to look pretty. This is probably the first time you've ever thought about that!

There's also Swisher's ghastly postseason history. I know you've heard all sorts of digs at players who supposedly can't hit in the playoffs, and a lot of them are sample-size hokum. Josh Hamilton is a postseason choker, so long as you forget about this. Alex Rodriguez is a choker, so long as you forget about this. So you're jaded about false or premature accusations of choking. I get that.

But Swisher is a different creature. Behold!:


PA H BA OBP SLG OPS
6 Yrs (11 Series) 181 26 .169 .283 .305 .589

That's amazing. And it's worse when you add in the tidbit that he's 1-for-31 with runners in scoring position in his postseason career. That's a lot of cussing fans spread out over several teams and several years.

It's probably still sample-size hokum. But it's worth mentioning. Because you can be sure Swisher's suitors are bringing it up in negotiations. As a reason to acquire or not acquire Swisher? I'd feel comfortable ignoring it.

Stick with the basics, then. Swisher is a good hitter who probably won't be so good in three years. What kind of team can afford to pay a guy like that for their short-term needs?

The likely

You know, this is one of the tougher ones I've done. There are a lot of teams that would probably want him, but most of them don't have a lot of room. The Orioles could go there if they're willing to bench Nate McLouth (OK) and/or Nolan Reimold (tougher). The Indians are interested, but do they have the money? The Mariners would be a good fit, but they might spend all their money on Josh Hamilton. The Phillies? The Giants? Heck, even the Mets? All of those teams make at least a little sense in their own peculiar ways.

But I'll make a couple of assumptions: a) that Michael Young is traded to the Phillies, and b) the Rangers won't get both Justin Upton and Josh Hamilton. That would still leave a Napoli-sized lineup hole for the Rangers. If the Rangers miss out on Upton and Hamilton altogether, I'd put money on them at least becoming a rumored Swisher destination.

He can play first, and he can take advantage of friendly hitters' parks. He'd be a good fit in Texas.

The ideal

The Dodgers. Put him in forthfield, and slip a little something into Bud Selig's pocket to make baseball change the rules around.

If that doesn't work, though, I'll pick an alternate. There's something weird about Cincinnati not trusting Todd Frazier to start over Scott Rolen in the playoffs, but trusting him to hit cleanup next year. Ryan Ludwick did great for them last year, but he's not especially likely to do it again. If a deal falls through with Ludwick and the Reds -- or even if it doesn't -- Swisher would be a good fit for the Reds, as he could even play first when Joey Votto needs a rest.

Begrudging prediction

Rangers, four years, $50 million. That's more than Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino got, but Swisher is a much more consistent hitter than those two, and like Jeff Kent said, "The money lies in the RBIs." He obviously hasn't heard about the "RBIs vs. RBI" debate before. He probably would have thrown in a "regular-season" if he were specifically referencing Swisher's situation.

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