Boston only projects to have a couple of left-handed hitters in their lineup—Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Shane Victorino (switch-hitter) and potentially Jarrod Saltalamacchia (switch-hitter)—and adding either free-agent outfielder would definitely give the Red Sox more balance in the batting order.
ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports that the Red Sox are looking to sign Hamilton, and will turn to Swisher if they fail to do so:
“The Boston Red Sox are one of four teams interested in signing free agent outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, according to a baseball source. The Red Sox look at Swisher as a fallback plan if they are unable to lure Josh Hamilton.”
Boston has already signed two free-agent outfielders this offseason in Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, and signing either Hamilton or Swisher would cause some shifting in their lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury is nearly guaranteed to start the season in center field, and at the moment Victorino would start in right field with Gomes in left.
If the Red Sox were to sign Hamilton, that would mean Gomes would probably move to the bench and Victorino would stay put in right field. If the Red Sox were to sign Swisher, though, Gomes would still move to the bench but Victorino would then likely move to left so Swisher could play the more familiar right. And even if Boston signs either, paying Gomes $10 million over the next two seasons to sit on the bench seems like a little much.
Now, should Boston be pursuing Hamilton and Swisher? The obvious answer is: "Why not?"
Hamilton, who hit .285/.354/.577 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI last season with the Texas Rangers, would provide a major boost to the heart of Boston’s lineup. But it is going to cost the Red Sox to land him.
“Privately, the Red Sox have said they won’t go beyond a three-year deal for Hamilton, and Monday a baseball source said it was ‘doubtful’ that Hamilton will get fewer than four years in a new deal.”
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Hamilton is looking for a seven-year deal worth $175 million—terms that Boston wouldn’t be smart to offer or match.
Swisher, on the other hand, would provide similar—but definitely not equal—value that Hamilton could, and it will cost Boston much less.
“ESPN Insider’s Jim Bowden reported that the Indians hope they can sign him for four years and $48 to $50 million, though it appears the market could reach $60 million or more. The Red Sox, of course, would only sign him for a shorter term, as is the case with their interest in Hamilton.”
Signing Swisher would make a lot more sense than signing Hamilton. Hamilton would be restricted to the outfield whereas Swisher could also play first base when newly acquired first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli needed a break or would be catching.
“Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said at the conclusion of the winter meetings last week that the Red Sox were looking for a left-handed bat, one that either could play the outfield or first base. Swisher plays both.”
Not only would Swisher give the Red Sox another left-handed bat and versatility in the field, but he could also provide production from the right side of the plate as he’s a switch-hitter. Swisher hit .273/.356/.517 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI as a lefty and .270/.380/.389 with five home runs and 22 RBI from the right side of the plate.
Obviously Hamilton is the bigger name since he’s an MVP candidate year in and year out, but Swisher is the one they should be focusing on if they’re going to make a wise decision.