Recent rumors have pegged the Red Sox as potential frontrunners to sign former Yankees’ outfielder Nick Swisher. With Swisher likely set to be one of the highest priced free agents on the market, however, is he really worth it? There’s a good chance that Swisher will command a deal worth close to $15 million annually over at least four years. After the mega-trade in August, isn’t this the kind of signing that Cherington and the front office are trying to stay away from?
Don’t get me wrong, Nick Swisher has plenty of value. He is a switch-hitter who can play both right field and first base, both holes in the Red Sox lineup, and batted .272/.364/.473. Also a good clubhouse presence, Swisher would be a nice addition to the team. On a cheap contract, that is. If the Red Sox plan on making a big move, dealing with eight figure contracts, Swisher probably isn’t the route they want to take.
As a switch-hitter who hits better against right-handers, the Green Monster wouldn’t help Swisher out in the same way it would help somebody like Mike Napoli or Ryan Ludwick. He would probably post slightly worse numbers to what he’s averaged in New York the past four seasons. In those four years (aided by the short porch in right field), Swisher averaged a .268/.367/.483 slash line with 26 home runs and 87 RBIs.
Those numbers look pretty good, but remember that Swisher spent those years in his prime. Those were his age 28-31 seasons, and entering his mid-30’s he’s likely to slow down. Expect his average to slip a few points (though his OBP should remain relatively high), and his power numbers to fall a bit. Never a great fielder, he’ll continue to slow with age and will probably have to move to first base full time, limiting his value.
I wouldn’t be too opposed to signing Swisher on a front-loaded contract worth something like $45 million over 4 years. However, he’s probably going to command more money than that, and I’m not sure I’d give it to him. He’d probably post solid numbers over the first few years of the deal, but it’s hard to imagine they’d look all that much better than Cody Ross. If the Red Sox are looking to make a big move this offseason, they could sign Cody Ross to play right field and Lance Berkman to play first base for considerably less than it would take to sign Swisher. I’d much rather them take the latter route, which would give them similar value to Swisher would for much less money.