MLB Free Agency 2012: Could Torii Hunter Replace Nick Swisher in the Bronx?

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2012

NEW YORK - JULY 21:  Torii Hunter #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs the bases against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 21, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Let's recap what we know so far.

The Yankees are operating under an edict from Hal Steinbrenner that he would like the team to be under the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014.

Both Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson will see their contracts expire before then—and both players are in line for fairly substantial raises.

Yesterday, we looked at 11 players who are potential free agents following this season that are likely to be overpaid, and incumbent Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher was one of them.

Unless Swisher—who told ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews that he would like to stay in New York—is willing to take less than he'd get on the open market, the chances of him doing so are slim.

There are a number of expected veteran free agents who could fill the role, perhaps on a shorter and/or less expensive deal, including Andre Ethier, Ichiro and Torii Hunter.

Hunter, who turns 37 in July, still has a skill set that is very similar to Swisher: the ability to get on base and the ability to hit for power. Hunter beats Swisher out in defense and speed, but Swisher's influence on a clubhouse cannot be overlooked—though, by no means am I saying that Hunter is a bad guy to have in your clubhouse.

In comments to Bill Plunkett of The Orange County Register, Hunter is being realistic about his chances to stay in Los Angeles:

It'd be nice (to get an extension offer) but if not, I understand. There's no rush. They have other guys like (Erick) Aybar they need to lock up. Plus they've got (Mike) Trout lying in the weeds...I want to be back (with the Angels). In my mind, I tell myself I want to be back. But I can tell myself that. It's up to them.

Hunter, who is in the final year of a contract that pays him $18 million this year, will have to take a significant cut in salary regardless of whether he stays in Los Angeles or goes elsewhere.

Should he hit the open market, Hunter would be an excellent short-term replacement for Swisher, who much to the chagrin of Yankees fans, is likely nearing the end of his run in the Bronx.