I don’t know who Nick Swisher‘s PR team is, but I want them in charge of promoting my life. I spent part of this week watching the city of Cleveland fawn over Swisher like he was the second coming of Babe Ruth. The weeks leading up to this one, there was hype from other cities as they pursued Swisher. If Cleveland had been the only city making such a push, I might have understood it (not fully), but I could have wrapped my head around it. I still wouldn’t understand the need for Cleveland (or any other city) to do anything more than the offer 4 year/$52 million deal that has allegedly been proffered to him. It’s a far fall from what he was allegedly demanding for his services at the beginning of the off-season, but it’s still far more than what he deserves.
In his 8 full big league seasons, Swisher has averaged 25.9 HRs, 83.1 RBIs, a .256 average, and around an .830 OPS. He finished 6th in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2005, and has made one All-Star team. His All-Star selection came in 2010 as the Final Vote winner, despite Kevin Youkilis’ better numbers. My guess is that Senator John Kerry’s endorsement injured Youk’s chances, but I digress. Swisher has 0 Silver Sluggers, 0 Gold Gloves, and in 2012, he finished in the top-10 in only one offensive category (he was 8th place in walks with 77.) Whenever I’ve asked why the Red Sox would be interested in signing Swisher to a guaranteed to be ridiculous contract, I’ve been told that he’s a good ‘clubhouse guy’.
I have absolutely nothing against good clubhouse guys, every team needs one, but if that’s the number one thing a guy is bringing to the table, then that’s something that needs to be taken in to consideration. Even using an advanced metric such as WAR (wins over replacement) does nothing to further Swisher’s case. Over his 8 big league seasons, he has averaged a 2.29 WAR. A role player has a WAR of 1-2 (Swisher has finished 3 seasons in that range- ’05, ’09, and ’11.) A ‘solid starter’ has a WAR of 2-3 (Swish’s career average comes in on the low side of that), and a ‘good’ player comes in at between 3-4 (he’s done that 4 times- ’06, ’07, ’10, and ’12.) A WAR of -0.5 comes in at less than ‘scrub’ (0-1 WAR), a feat Swish has accomplished once (2008.)
To put Swish’s WAR in to perspective, Shane Victorino has an average WAR of 2.89 and anyone with half a brain would agree that the Red Sox will be vastly overpaying for his services for the next 3 years. If they compound that problem by ridiculously overpaying Swisher for the next 4, I may need to take a break from MLB for a little while.
On the other end of the spectrum is a player like Josh Hamilton, who recently signed a 5 year/$125 millionish deal with the Angels. With our own eyes we can see that Hamilton is beyond a superstar player (when he isn’t injured), but if you look at his WAR, it confirms what your eyes know: he’s hit 8.4 (2010), 5.2 (2008) and averages right around a 4 for his career, despite his .4 WAR in 2009 (a season that he only played 89 games.) In fact, his two lowest WAR seasons are 2007 & 2009, when he only played a combined 179 games.
As a fan or a GM, would you rather pay Swisher upwards of $15 million per season, or Hamilton $25 million? How about $30 million? I know right now that if the Red Sox offered Napoli (assuming his contract gets worked out) and Victorino for Hamilton, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto might laugh himself to death. Likewise, if the Indians or whoever signs Swisher had the ability to clone him, and offered two Nick Swishers for one Josh Hamilton, Dipoto might not get a word out for a week.
The problem with overpaying a marginal player like Swisher, as I mentioned when the Red Sox were overpaying anyone willing to sign with them, is that it completely resets the expected salary structure going forward. If guys like Victorino, Swisher, Dempster, and Napoli are worth $13 million+ a year, what are actual good players going to command? If Hamilton doesn’t have his injury/addiction past, doesn’t he get more like $35 million a year?
I’m sick of reading and listening to clubs, GMs, and fans rant about how money is ruining baseball, all the while doling out lavish contracts on players who simply don’t deserve them. At best, if you were desperate, and a contender, Swisher might be worth a 3 or 4 year deal at $8 mil per (more than twice what the average major league player earns for a guy who is an average major leaguer.) Combined with the draft pick that has to be forfeited to attain his services, and that is far more than any club should be willing to give up.
I wish whatever franchise manages to sign him the best, all the while desperately hoping it isn’t the Red Sox.
Do you think Swisher is worth a big money deal? Would you take him on your favorite team?
Let me know: