Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A New Bronx Bomber

The New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox consummated a deal last week, in which New York received 1b/OF Nick Swisher and RHP Kanekoa Texeira for Util Wilson Betemit, RHP Jeff Marquez and RHP Jhonny Nunez.

The big name is this deal is quite obviously Nick Swisher, who I happen to like. Some of his stats aren't necessarily pretty, but he's a useful player to have on your team, signed to a decent contract (cheap for the Yankees). He is versatile in the field, able to play either Right or Left Field as well as being a well above average defender at 1b. He can also play Center Field in a pinch, but is stretched there defensively. On offense he will give you a patient approach from both sides of the plate, resulting in a good OBP but a lackluster batting average. He had the worst year of his short career last year with slash stats of .219/.332/.410, but is a career .244/.354/.451 hitter. So he maintained his ability to get on base despite the bad batting average, and if he can rebound into the .240 range, his OBP should be a quality on in the .350 range with some pop. He might not be the ideal 1b for Yankee fans, but his defense there should make up for any offensive shortcomings. Additionally, it would be fair to expect the offensive rebound due to Swisher's unfortunate luck last year. His BABIP (Batting Average on Ball In Play) was a terrifying .251. Swisher's career BABIP was only .293 coming into the 2008 season, so it's likely that there is something in his skill set that exposes him to lower than average BABIP's, yet that's still a 42 point drop in BABIP, and that should mainly be attributed to bad luck as his walk percentage, K percentage, line drive percentage all remained within their normal ranges (his LD% actually increased). It is entirely possible that Swisher is experiencing a sudden and dramatic erosion of his skills, but I find that highly unlikely given that he is going to be entering his age 28 season in 2009. How often does someone entering their prime experience a dramatic loss of skills?

The rest of this trade is not nearly as interesting to me. Betemit has had chances with previous clubs, and while there still seems to be some promise and room for growth, it becomes less likely that he will realize it with every passing year. Marquez has been pretty hyped (shocking for a Yankee prospect, I know) but he lacks an out-pitch and relies mainly on his sinker. It's not impossible for someone with his skill-set to pitch well in the Majors, but he only notched 51 K's in 102.2 innings between the two levels. He just doesn't have much margin for error, and would probably see slightly more success as a reliever. Texeira had a nice year this year going
6-3, 1.33 combined between High-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham in 2008, with 60 strikeouts and 21 walks allowed in 61 innings overall. He has a great slider which he sets up with a low 90s fastball. Nunez came to the Yankees in a trade for Alberto Gonzalez, and is likely the best prospect in this group. He throws a low to mid 90s fastball (as high as 95), and has shown a plus slider, though it remains inconsistent. He was fantastic after coming over to the Yankees, and has shown more promise as a power reliever than as a starter (as the Nationals used him). He went 2-8, 5.22 as a starter at high Class A Potomac, but as a reliever with Double-A Harrisburg and then Double-A Trenton, he went 1-0, 1.65 in 27 innings, striking out 34, and tallied 116 strikeouts in 108 total innings.

In the end I definitely like the deal for the Yankees. It appears that the only thing of value that they gave up is a Double-A relief prospect, and in return they received a switch-hitting, versatile player who can give them the OBP they will need if they fail to retain Bobby Abreu, plus a relief prospect of their own. Bravo to Brian Cashman on this one.

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