Nick Swisher, as any Yankee follower would tell you, has a history of under-performing in the postseason.
Regardless, with three consecutive eighty-plus RBI seasons under his belt, it is by no means a stretch to say that the Yankees, at least as far as regular season performance is concerned, have seen Swisher over-deliver in terms of what their expectations were of him coming into the 2009 season.
Remember, Swisher was the insurance policy in the event the team couldn't sign Mark Teixeira, and it was only due to a season-ending injury to Xavier Nady in 2009 that Swisher assumed everyday responsibilities in right field. Kudos to him for running with things, and kudos to the Yankees for seeing things in Swisher that led them to believe he could contribute.
The regular season, though, is only half of what goes into the evaluation of a Yankee player's performance. The Yankees are built to win championships, or at least pursue them feverishly, and as Alex Rodriguez would surely agree, Yankee legacies are built on postseason performance.
As good as Swisher has been during the regular season for three years running, he has simply failed in the postseason far more often than not. Through five complete postseason series with the Yankees, and including this year's ALDS through Game 3, Swisher is hitting .179 with an on-base percentage of .275.
While his slugging percentage is a relatively healthy .409, the fact remains that his numbers in this category are inflated by a good series versus Minnesota in the 2010 ALDS and his one extra base hit through the first three games of the current ALDS.
In straightforward terms, removing all the numbers from the equation, the Yankee lineup has suffered in the postseason with Swisher in the middle of it.
Whether the Yankees continue on past Detroit this year or not, the Yankees will more than likely address this issue in the offseason. They simply have to, if only due to the fact that they don't have the ability to address many other problems in the lineup due to contract obligations.
As a result, here are some of the possibilities open to the Yankees
The Yankees hold all the cards as far as Swisher is concerned. They have a one-year team option on him at $10.25 million, or they can buy him out for just $1 million.
If and how the team decides to supplement an aging offense will determine Swisher's fate, but there is a good chance that the Yankees will seek a middle ground for Swisher if they do not pursue a big-name free agent or trade option for right field.
Middle ground is something other than paying him $10.25 million for another year or just buying him out, so perhaps a two-year deal at $7 or $8 million would do the trick. This would give the Yankees the ability to seek offensive solutions instead of a player capable of playing right field, a huge advantage in negotiations when the time comes.
Additionally, if no progress is made on the free agent or trade front they can always pencil Swisher in as the everyday rightfielder. Not the best option, but not the worst either.
Free Agent To Be, Matt Kemp
This is without question the most attractive option for the Yankees.
Kemp would cost the Yankees a great deal of money, $20-$25 million per year for a minimum of six years, but his insertion into the Yankee lineup reinvents the team for years to come.
The signing of Kemp would also allow the Yankees to secure their offense immediately by addressing major issues having to do with age and performance.
Specifically, it would give them the ability to wean themselves off of the need to have Alex Rodriguez as the lineup's anchor, a role he may no longer have the ability to fill due to age and injury. Additionally, it reduces their dependence on Mark Teixeira to return to his 2003-2009 form.
It also gives the Yankees a lineup that would feature a potent left/right look from the leadoff spot through at least the sixth spot, with Kemp assuming the third spot, Cano moving to cleanup, and Rodriguez and Teixeira assuming the fifth and sixth spots, respectively.
The downside is that trading for Matt Kemp will more than likely result in Jesus Montero and several other top-tier prospects going the other way. The Dodgers' bankruptcy situation does favor the Yankees here, though, as the Dodgers will not be able to sign Kemp for the $150 million or more he will demand or hold him ransom for an unreasonable package.
If the Yankees develop an interest in Kemp, look for them to wait until the trade deadline in 2012 to move, providing, of course, that the timetable isn't accelerated by another club becoming involved.
Free Agent To Be, Andre Ethier
Remember, this list is covering possibilities, not probabilities, and so bringing in Ethier does qualify on that front.
Having said that, there would be little sense in the Yankees taking this route for two big reasons: first, Ethier has not outperformed Swisher over the past three seasons by any means, and it could be said that Swisher is the better option based on numbers and durability.
Second, Ethier doesn't project to be better than Swisher over the next four or fives seasons, either. Swisher is trending towards better power numbers whereas Ethier is actually trending the opposite way, and Ethier doesn't bring anything to the discussion in terms of OBP, defense, or overall slugging percentage.
The Yankees, in fact, would be better served keeping Swisher over Ethier. He fits New York, adds to team chemistry, and gives them a coveted switch-hitter in the middle of the lineup.
This is all a perfect illustration of just how unfortunate it is that Swisher cannot seem to get on track in the postseason.
Free Agent To Be, Prince Fielder
Of the big-time free agents available, Prince Fielder ranks only above Albert Pujols in the Least Likely to be Signed by the Yankees Sweepstakes.
In Mark Teixeira, the Yankees have a first baseman under contract for another five years after the 2011 season, and word has it that the Yankees would be leery of turning an already stout Fielder into a full-time designated hitter.
These are the Yankees, though, and they do have Boston to compete with during the offseason every year as well. The contracts of David Ortiz and J.D. Drew represent $25 million or so coming off the books for the Red Sox, and that money could easily go towards easing the pain of bringing on Fielder for at least that first year.
It is this dynamic that makes Fielder a possibility for the Yankees, and therefore an obstacle to Swisher coming back.
With Fielder in the middle of the lineup as the designated hitter, the Yankees may feel comfortable enough offensively to go with a low-cost option in right field. This would somewhat compensate for the huge dollars that Fielder would be getting, and that's something that even the Yankees would appreciate.