Swisher, on the books for $10.25 million this season, is due to become a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason, and the word from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com is that the right fielder has his sights set pretty high for his next contract.
Apparently, he wants Jayson Werth money. In other words, a contract in the neighborhood of $126 million spread out over seven years.
Yeah, this is the part where you, savvy baseball fan, cringe.
Baseball is the best sport in the world, but the Werth contract is just one of many bad contracts handed out over the years that reflects poorly on Major League Baseball's economic structure.
And now Swisher wants to be next.
To be fair to Swisher, he didn't actually tell Heyman that he wants Werth money. The notion that he does comes not from the horse's mouth, but from various "Yankees people" and an additional source. It's not like Swisher is parading around the Yankees' clubhouse bragging that he has $126 million coming his way. (Even in a room full of rich guys, that wouldn't fly.)
But Swisher didn't deny that he has his eyes on Werth's deal with the Washington Nationals, signed before the 2011 season. Swisher referred to it as a "great deal," and he urged Heyman to check out the numbers.
And that's just the thing. If Swisher truly does want Werth money, the numbers suggest that he should have no trouble getting it as a free agent.
There are a lot of similarities between Swisher's situation now and Werth's situation when he was a free agent following the 2010 season, virtually all of which Heyman outlined in his article.
Most notably, Swisher is going to be 31 when the offseason rolls around, just like Werth was back in 2010. More importantly, Swisher's 19.0 career WAR is virtually equal to the 19.2 WAR Werth bore at the time. By the end of the season, Swisher's career WAR could very well be higher than 19.2.
If one were to consult FanGraphs for WAR numbers, one will see that Swisher already has a higher career WAR than Werth did in 2010. FanGraphs has Swisher's career WAR at 24.9. Back in 2010, Werth's career WAR was 23.1.
So Swisher could conceivably argue this offseason that he deserves at least Jayson Werth money based on his overall value. Beyond that, he can always point to the fact that his 203 career homers and 649 career RBI (and counting) fairly dwarf the 120 homers and 406 RBI Werth had to his name when he was seeking a contract two years ago.
So Swisher basically has everything he needs to go out and demand a contract like Werth's in free agency. He has precedent to point to and a leg to stand on.
Will he actually get Werth money?
Yeah, probably. There's more than enough money floating around out there. In fact, there's more now than ever before thanks to the absurd television contracts teams have nowadays. It's also worth noting that one of four MLB executives Heyman talked to didn't think Swisher would be crazy to ask for Werth money. No doubt, that executive isn't the only one who feels that way.
One thing we know for sure, however, is that Swisher won't be getting Werth money from the Yankees. Not a chance.
The Yankees have enough bloated contracts on their hands. Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira are all due to make over $20 million in 2013. Derek Jeter will make $17 million. Robinson Cano's $15 million option and Curtis Granderson's $13 million option will presumably be picked up, and the Yankees will have to pay Rafael Soriano $14 million if he chooses not to opt out of his deal.
Those seven players alone could account for over $130 million in 2013. Even for the high-spending Yankees, that's a lot of money.
And of course, the Yankees are making an effort to curb their high-spending ways. Hal Steinbrenner, who is a far more traditional businessman than his old man ever was, wants to get the club's payroll down below $189 million before the 2014 season comes around. In order to do that, the Yankees are going to need to find as many bargain players as possible in the next few years.
At seven years and $126 million, Swisher would be the exact opposite of a bargain buy. If that's the kind of contract he wants, then the Yankees will surely wish him luck once the season is over and tell him they look forward to inviting him back to Yankee Stadium to participate in old-timers' games someday in the distant future.
It's going to be a damn shame when it happens. Swisher is a quality player, one who really doesn't get the kind of credit he deserves. And though he doesn't fit the mold of a traditional Yankees star, the fun-loving demeanor he brought to the club in 2009 was a welcome change of pace. Several years later, his goofy-guy act still comes off as being out of place in a strangely delightful way.
Heyman noted in his article that Swisher's Yankee teammates have grown accustomed to his day-in, day-out silliness. For his part, Swisher had no problem admitting that he's loving life as a member of the Yankees.
"Everyone knows how much I love New York. I've been very vocal about that. This place has been so amazing for me. I'm enjoying my situation. I'm enjoying my teammates. I'm not going to have any regrets. I'm going to live it up. And I'm going to have a blast," Swisher said.
This quote is Swisher in a nutshell. In addition to being one of the league's top right fielders, he is also baseball's most preeminent dude.
But these words ring hollow. They're undoubtedly Swisher's, but one gets the sense that this is just him doing a little preemptive damage control. He doesn't want there to be any hard feelings when he leaves. A few months from now after he signs his new monster contract, he'll probably come right out and reiterate how much he loved New York. But, you know, business is business.
When that moment comes, it will be obvious that Swisher really isn't any different from every other ballplayer under the sun. He may seem to love having fun more than he loves anything else, and he may say he loves it in New York, but in the end, he's going to be as willing as the next guy to follow the almighty dollar.
The only thing that will be at all different about his situation is that he'll be leaving the Yankees in order to get a better payday. Irony doesn't get much more ironic than that.
Not that any of this is a surprise. Swisher's inevitable departure has been on the horizon for some time now, and both casual and diehard Yankees fans seem to have come to grips with it. The Yankees themselves don't seem to be dreading his departure, either.
But all the while, there was at least a chance that Swisher and the Yankees would find a way to come to a mutually beneficial agreement, one that would allow him to stay in pinstripes and in the city he loves so much.
The chance of that happening is basically dead—at least until further notice. It won't be revived until Swisher has a change of heart and decides he'd rather be happy in New York than cashing Werth-like paychecks in an alien city where baseball may not be king.
This is not going to happen. Being a Yankee is all well and good, but the idea of staying a Yankee isn't going to keep Swisher from getting his.
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