Nick Swisher is a good Yankee.
In almost four full seasons, he has a .362 on-base percentage and 101 home runs. He's a decent right fielder and has proven his worth at first base in 2012 while Mark Teixeira deals with a calf injury. He's also a clubhouse and fan favorite.
Unfortunately for Swisher, who has embraced New York, his days as a Yankee are numbered.
He'll be a free agent this off-season and it's difficult to see him in the Yankees' future plans, given Swisher's postseason numbers and the Yankees' desire to decrease their payroll by 2014.
Swisher has always been a streaky hitter, which partially explains the Yankees' inability to keep their division lead in 2012. Since Aug. 29, he's just 7-62 (.113) without a home run. He has his share of hot streaks, too, but I sense the team is getting tired of his extreme hot and cold stretches.
One thing he's never been for the team is a good playoff hitter. In 100 playoff at-bats in the Bronx, Swisher has just 16 hits (a .160 average). He does have four home runs, including one in the 2009 World Series, but the Yankees expect more in the postseason from their hitters (just ask Alex Rodriguez).
Still, I think if the payroll restrictions the team is putting on itself did not exist, the Yankees would bring Swisher back. He's been a good player and a good teammate for them. However, with a goal to lower the team's payroll below $189 million after next season, Swisher will be a casualty of that.
Even with Swisher's streaky play, he will still be one of the best free agent outfielders available this winter (also available will be Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino, a decent, but not small, group of players). Is a three-year contract worth $30 million to $35 million realistic for a player entering his age-32 season with a career .358 on-base percentage, 205 home runs and the ability to play outfield and first base? I think so.
Now let's look at what the Yankees are already set to pay in 2014.
Rodriguez is owed $26 million, Mark Teixeira $23.125 million, CC Sabathia $23 million and Derek Jeter at least a $3 million buyout. That's $75.125 million for just three players (Jeter or another shortstop would still need to have a salary), leaving $113.875 for the other 22 men on the roster, including Robinson Cano, who will probably sign for about $25 million per year and perhaps Curtis Granderson.
With those numbers, it seems there isn't enough room for the salary Swisher would demand, and as much as he loves New York, it's hard to ask anyone to take less money or fewer years than they are offered.
Plus, the Yankees have a cheaper option to replace Swisher for the next year or two while they evaluate more permanent options with Ichiro Suzuki, who is hitting .288 since coming to the Yankees and could probably be had on a one-year, $5 million deal, which would not require any commitment for 2014. In the meantime, the Yankees can also watch Tyler Austin's and Mason Williams' development in the minors.
In a perfect world, the Yankees would be able to re-sign Nick Swisher and his enthusiastic spirit for the next few years. However, it seems like the Bronx Bombers are finally forcing themselves to practice some financial restraint, and for the first time in a long time they will not be able to re-sign any player they want. They're going to have to let Nick Swisher go.