Filed:November 5th, 2008
Felix Pie and Nick Swisher (Cubbie Nation/File and AP)
Felix Pie and Michael Weurtz to the White Sox for Nick Swisher
It shouldn't have come to this really. Pie has long been the apple of the organization's eye, even going so far as to make his way onto the 2008 roster as the Opening Day starter. However, a terrible April quickly lead to his place in the Lou Piniella doghouse, and ultimately, a trip to the minors in May. Now, it wasn't so much that he didn't hit, as that doesn't really seem to be something Lou worries too much about in general. No, it was his approach at the plate, slowness in adopting coaching and instruction, and lack of batter's eye that did him in.
However, after making the September callups, we got to see a much more polished Felix, going .300/.391/.450 in September. Small sample size? Absolutely. However, it was seeing him take pitches, make adjustments, and seem more at ease around the ballpark that convinced me that he was adapting. And while I don't think that that this triple slash number is representative of his talents, I can certainly see him settling in somewhere in the .270/.340/.450 range as a pro.
Unfortunately for him though, he's out of time; or at least options. And the pronouncement that the Cubs were shopping for a power-hitting outfielder this off-season means that Kosuke Fukudome is likely headed out to center for a platoon with Reed Johnson, at least for 2008. Now, there might be some appeal to leaving Felix on the roster as a fifth outfielder to start the season, but it's my position that it can only devalue him in trade further. Kosuke Fukudome and his contract won't be leaving anytime soon, and so it's time for Felix to go.
And by go, we mean the Southside. Ozzie Guillen and the Sox have been looking for a strong centerfield solution for a few years now, with no one able to grab the ring, even going so far as to send Swisher out there for 70 games last season. That's desperate. Brian Anderson isn't the answer, and neither is Dewayne Wise. Jerry Owens? Even if his .700 OPS excited you, his situation is worse than Waiting for Godot. Move on. Kenny Williams recently stated that he's interested in taking the White Sox through a youth movement, and we agree. We just think he's got the wrong youth.
Now one might argue that a .219 average -- Swisher's 2008 average -- is not something worth trading for, and normally you'd be right. But Nick Swisher hasn't forgotten how to hit at age 27, as his 24 home runs last year can somewhat attest to. The combination of playing out of position, a new city, and chemistry hurt him in 2008, and he's likely to have a strong bounceback in 2009. But just as Felix is relegated to a 4th outfielder due to situations out of his control, Swisher is dealing with MVP candidates in the outfield, and an immoveable NTC at first.
With that, and a very affordable contract in 2009 and 2010, we think he's just the right part and personality to fit in with the Cubs in 2009. While some will likely consider the return of Jim Edmonds a more attractive alternative, we don't. Not at 12 years older, and likely a couple of million more in cost.
Bottom line, it's the perfect buy low strategy for both teams, with tremendous upside at each end. For the Cubs, you get a player likely to at least reproduce Edmond's 2008 numbers. For the Sox, a strong centerfield candidate under control for five-plus more years, and much needed bullpen help. It's a win-win.