MLB Free Agency: 5 Players the Yankees Can Sign If They Let Nick Swisher Walk

Stephen SkinnerContributor IISeptember 24, 2012

MLB Free Agency: 5 Players the Yankees Can Sign If They Let Nick Swisher Walk

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    Nick Swisher is a free agent in 2013, and it is quite possible that his time putting on the Yankees pinstripes is coming to an end. 

    Who will New York look at in replacing the spirited outfielder and backup first baseman?

    In his four years with the "Bombers," Nick Swisher has averaged 26 HR and 85 RBI.  As a switch-hitter, he has made himself a valuable component to the Yankees' lineup, and in the field he has proven to be a solid right fielder.  When first baseman Mark Teixeira has needed rest or has been out of the starting lineup with injury, Swisher has filled in at that position admirably.

    He has endeared himself to Yankees fans with an unbridled spirit and genuine enthusiasm.  It is clear he loves the game and playing in New York.

    With a verbal spending limit issued by their owners, the club will find it difficult to re-sign Swisher, who will undoubtedly look for an increase from his six-year, $36 million salary (he is actually due $10.25 million this season).

    Here is a look at potential options for filling the role "Swish" has established for himself on the team.

Cody Ross

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    Cody Ross is a 32-year-old outfielder (same age as Swisher) currently playing for the Boston Red Sox and having one of the best seasons of his career (.270 batting average with 21 HR and 77 RBI). 

    He will also be a free agent in 2013.

    Statistically, Ross is very comparable to Swisher.  Both have played nine seasons in the major leagues, with Swisher exhibiting more power (207 HR to 121 HR) but Ross holding the higher batting average (.262 to .255).  

    Swisher gets on base more often (.359 OBP to .325 for Ross) and is known for his ability to draw walks and extend pitch counts.  One additional advantage to Swisher is that he is a switch-hitter, and Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch offers plenty of opportunity to those being able to bat left-handed (Ross hits from the right side of the plate).

    In the field, "Swish" also has an edge, if only because he has played first base (in right field they have identical .984 fielding percentages).

    In spite of those things, there remains the issue of salary.  This season, Cody Ross is making $3 million with the Red Sox.  Given the year he is having he is due for an increase, but whatever that increase may be, it should still pale in comparison to what Swisher will ask for in negotiations.

    Already there have been reports that the Yankees are interested in Ross, and given what he has already accomplished in the field and at the plate, it would make sense that the team would pursue a cheaper version of Nick Swisher.

Scott Hairston

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    Scott Hairston has made the most of his opportunities with the New York Mets.  In 2012, he is hitting .266 and has slugged 19 HR while appearing in 124 games for New York's National League team. 

    In the field, he has played all three outfield positions and made just one error in 136 chances.

    The question with Hairston is whether or not he is capable of being a full-time player.  Over his nine-year career, the 32-year-old has played more than 120 games just once—this season. 

    Is 2012 proof that he can handle being in the lineup day in and day out?

    If he can, his salary requirements certainly would be worth a look by the Yankees, as Hairston is making $1.1 million with the Mets.  Even with a significant increase, he could be a solid, cheap acquisition who is already used to playing under the magnifying glass that is New York City.

Michael Bourn

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    Thirty-year-old Michael Bourn is blessed with speed.  He currently leads the National League with 39 stolen bases and has provided the Atlanta Braves with consistency at the plate (hitting .274) and in the field (two errors in 382 chances for a .995 fielding percentage).

    He is a free agent in 2013 and is due $6.845 million this year.

    Would he be worth it? 

    In terms of salary, his asking price is more than likely going to be in the same ballpark that Nick Swisher will be asking, but he offers a younger, speedier option for the "Bombers" should they choose to go that route.

    If the Yankees allow both Curtis Granderson and Swisher to leave—and most indications at this point are that the team will do so—Bourn may be worth a long look. 

    With Brett Gardner and Bourn in the outfield, there seldom would be a ball finding its way into the gaps, but do the Yankees want to change the characteristics of their lineup that dramatically (from power-oriented to speed-oriented)?  Only Brian Cashman knows the answer to that.

Ryan Ludwick

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    Ryan Ludwick of the Cincinnati Reds is having a great season, and for 2013, the team has a $5 million option on him or a $500,000 buyout.

    If the Reds choose the buyout, the Yankees should "buy in."

    In 120 games for "Cincy," Ludwick has hit 26 HR with 80 RBI while batting .276.  The 34-year-old can play any of the outfield positions and is a decent fielder (a .992 career fielding percentage).

    If—and it's a BIG if—the Reds buy out Ludwick, he would be looking for at least $5 million in free agency, and that would be a savings to the Yankees should they let Swisher go.

    It is something for Brian Cashman to keep in mind.

Angel Pagan

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    Angel Pagan, like Nick Swisher, is a switch-hitting outfielder. 

    At the age of 31, he is one year younger than Swisher, and he currently makes $5.4 million less than the Yankees outfielder.

    At the plate, Pagan is having a tremendous season for the San Francisco Giants—hitting .293, scoring 93 runs and leading the National League with 15 triples.  Like Michael Bourn, he would bring a different facet to the Yankees' power-laden lineup.

    In the field, he is on par with Swisher, making five errors in 371 chances (Swisher has four in 212).

    Pagan is a free agent in 2013, and more than likely the Giants will make a push to re-sign him, but don't count the Yankees out of the running in the bidding for the former New York Met.