While the market for free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher continues to provide more questions than answers, the one thing we do know for sure is that teams are going to play it carefully when making the former All-Star an offer.
Nick Swisher has 2 offers on the table; at least 3-4 more teams still in the mix. Teams don't appear hesitant about losing the draft pick.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) December 20, 2012
Without a doubt, the team that's been most aggressive in pursuing Swisher is the Cleveland Indians, who are desperate to upgrade their offense and need a right fielder after trading Shin-Soo Choo.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported earlier this week that Swisher came to Cleveland to meet with the team.
But there is a bigger problem facing the Indians, or anyone else that decides to make Swisher a contract offer, that will ultimately drive his price down to the point where he is going to wonder what happened to his market.
After the regular season ended, the New York Yankees, Swisher's old team, made him a qualifying offer for $13.3 million in 2013.
Even though Swisher declined the offer, as he should have, that move came at a price for him, because it meant that any team wanting to sign him would have to give up a first- or second-round draft pick, depending on where the team that signs him was picking.
In addition to giving up a draft pick, under the terms of the CBA agreed to last year, a team that signs Swisher will also be giving up the slot money allocated for the specific pick.
For instance, let's say the Seattle Mariners, who hold the 12th pick in the 2013 draft, were to sign Swisher. They would not only forfeit that pick, but would also be giving up the money slotted for that specific pick. (In 2012, that pick had a value of $2.55 million.)
That is a huge sum of money for a team to give up when the amount of money you can now spend on draft picks is so limited. Even the worst team in the league is only getting around $10 million.
Swisher is a very good player who might be worth the price of a four-year contract. But if you sign him, you are immediately limiting what you can do in the draft. That's putting your farm system behind the eight ball if you are unable to sign multiple impact draft picks because you went after a free agent.
We see free agents get paid a ton of money all the time, with most of them not worth anything close to what they signed for. Draft picks are the best and most cost-efficient way of adding impact talent to your team.
Sure, you won't see the results for at least a year or two, but when you do, you will have six years of control over the player before he hits the market.
There are very few teams in the league that can afford to miss out on adding talent in any draft, so the price for signing Swisher is going to be much, much greater than just the value of his contract.
If a team can get Swisher at a bargain price—bargain being a relative term for a baseball player—then by all means, do it. But if you are going to be forking out $14-16 million per season for a player in his 30s and lose the ability to add impact talent through the draft, that price is too steep for someone who, while he does have value, is not a superstar.