Nick Swisher: From Chicago White Sox to New York Yankees

JerseySenior Analyst INovember 13, 2008

The Yankees have acquired a first baseman! They got Texiera!

No, not Teixiera, as in Mark Teixiera. And no, he's not the first baseman they got, either. No, Texiera is Kanekoa Texiera, a minor-league pitcher, who I think is actually pretty good. The first baseman they got is the better-known Nick Swisher, who can also play center field. The pair was acquired from the White Sox for Wilson Betemit and two "whatever" minor leaguers.

Let's forget the younger Tex for a moment or eight, and focus on the main piece of the package: Swisher. At first blush, some might contend the Yankees have found their first baseman of the present, and may drop out of the running for Mark Teixiera.

But I doubt this is the case. Swisher is Jason Giambi lite: a rockstar first baseman with power, but with a low batting average. Oh, and both had their best days in Oakland.

Something tells me the Yanks aren't about to replace Giambi with another Giambi, especially since they originally brough Giambi in following an MVP season, while Swisher's best season was two years ago.

Last year, Swisher batted an ugly .219 and had 135 strikeouts, compared to only 82 walks. His .332 OBP is much lower than his .381 and .372 marks from the two years prior. He may not be old, but he may already be declining.

More likely, Swisher will become the big bat off the bench. They traded Betemit, who previously filled that role, and upgraded to the more powerful Swisher. GM Brian Cashman also mentioned Swisher's upside: truth is, despite one weak season, he's put up very good numbers for a bench player. Because he can play first base and the outfield, he could see himself getting regular turns at the plate, and the Yanks could benefit from his powerful bat.

Plus, unlike Giambi, he's not a liability in the field, and, as mentioned previously, can play more than one position. And he's a switch-hitter (I bet John Sterling will call him a Swish-hitter), so he doesn't need to be benched against lefties.

If he is coming in to bolster the bench, it's a great move, as he's definitely an improvement over Betemit. Swisher did lose playing time over the course of the season in Chicago, so it's not a stretch to think he'll be mired to bench duty in New York.

Trading Betemit may also allow the Yankees to sign Orlando Hudson without worrying about Robinson Cano's future. There has been a lot of talk of dealing Cano and replacing him with O-Dawg, but there's no guarantee that someone will take Cano off the Yankees' hands, and Hudson may not be willing to wait so long to sign with the team.

Dealing Betemit opens up the middle-infield role on the bench, so the Yanks can sign Hudson, and if they're stuck with Cano, Hudson will be another great bench player. The Yankees would rather not waste Hudson in a pinch-fielder role, but this trade does make it easier to sign him, knowing such an option exists as a fallback.

There's also an outside chance he could be starting for the Yankees in center field. He may not be the ideal player, but he can play the position and actually hit the ball, something that can't be said about anyone on this roster.

Melky Cabrera can't hit, Brett Gardner is a pinch-runner or pinch-bunter, and Johnny Damon is not the center fielder he used to be. He may be filling a different hole that Teixiera and CC Sabathia can't.

Well, the Yanks better hope Swisher pans out. He's signed for the next three seasons, and his salary steadily increases, reaching nine million dollars in 2011, before he's eligible for yet another pay raise in the form of a club option.

The move is surprising and puzzling, although not exceedingly so. While Swisher's role on the team does currently appear undefined, it will get clearer as time goes on. There are plenty of places for him, and that alone may be why the Yankees traded for him: he has bounce-back potential, and they'll be able to use him in many situations. It's a riddle for the time being, but it's not such a head-scratcher.

(In other offseason news, the Yanks have brought back Damaso Marte. He was excellent in Pittsburgh last year, but struggled with the Yankees. They obviously think he can work out his problems, though, as they signed him not just for this year, but for the next three.)