Division Debate: Underrated Ty Wigginton Sparks Orioles Lineup

Bleacher Report Senior Writer IMarch 1, 2009

This offseason, both the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles were plenty busy. While the Yankees got proven talent, like Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the O's stocked up on young talent, such as Rich Hill, Felix Pie and Cesar Izturis. The O's also re-signed star right fielder Nick Markakis to a 6-year, $66 million deal and second basemen Brian Roberts to a four year, $40 million deal.

Both teams had one underrated acquisition, though. The Yankees acquired right fielder/first basemen Nick Swisher and the O's acquired infielder Ty Wigginton. But  Wigginton will have more of an impact.

First of all, Wigginton provides a better bat. Last year, Swisher hit just .219 with 69 RBI for the Chicago White Sox, striking out 135 times in 153 games. Meanwhile, Wigginton hit .285 with 23 home runs and 58 RBI for the Astros. In a lot of crucial hitting splits, Wigginton has the advantage. Wigginton hit .340 against lefties and .343 at home  However, Swisher bats just .197 against lefties, .247 at home.

Wigginton will also get more playing time to give Luke Scott, Aubrey Huff or Melvin Mora rests, all hitters with respectable careers. I don't think Swisher will be overtaking Teixeira (33 HR's, 121 RBI's) or Nady (25 HR's, 97 RBI's) anytime soon.

Don't get me wrong, Swisher is a good player. But with a contending team like the Yanks, he won't get much playing time. Meanwhile, with an underdog team like the Orioles, Wigginton will have a chance to make an impact. He rarely had any chances for the Astros, and he bombed 23 home runs.

Also, since both are making the transition into new divisions, it will be interesting to see how they can handle good AL East pitchers like Sabathia, Burnett, Jeremy Guthrie, Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Roy Halladay. Against AL East pitchers last year, Swisher hit just .153 with just seven RBI all year. Wigginton didn't face pitchers from the division much all year because he played in the National League and hit .241 with one home run. Not impressive, I know, but it beats Swisher.

Wigginton, 31, signed a two year, $6 million contract with the O's on February 10, and O's fans were excited. A power bat was brought to the bench, and Wigginton will be the guy who can hit lefties better than most O's hitters.

Swisher, on the other hand, is the guy the Yanks brought in to their already shallow bench. While that could propel Swisher to more playing time, Swisher was not dependable when it mattered, as he sat on the last game of the season, a 1-0 win over the Twins that put Chicago into the playoffs.

Regardless of the win, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen didn't trust Swisher when he needed him. The Yankees don't need another choker as they've already got Alex Rodriguez (.244 playoff batting average since joining the Yankees).

Wigginton, a former 17th round pick, has shined every time he has been given an opportunity to start, and with Melvin Mora in a contract year, Wigginton could be the starting third basemen next season. Wigginton should get anywhere from 350 to 400 at bats this season and is not worried about the O's infield logjam.

"I'm not really worried about getting my at-bats," Wigginton said Saturday. "The way I look at it, that's under my control. If I go out there and swing the bat and do what I have to do, I'm going to be in the lineup. That stuff takes care of itself. The last three years, I've been so consistent [that] teams have to know what they're getting out of me."

Swisher, however, will earn $3.6 million this year and, like Wigginton, won't get too many opportunities to start. But, Wigginton will improve the O's lineup more than Swisher will improve the Yankees, as the O's simply aren't as good a team.

Swisher is a versatile guy. He could play first base and any position in the outfield, but it won't matter, being that he's a New York Yankee.

Wigginton will have a lot more impact on the O's simply because the fact that the O's aren't a playoff contender.