Breaking Down the Swisher Deal

In the comments of the previous thread, a commenter asked that I analyze the trade of Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira from the White Sox to the Yankees for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez, and Jhonny Nunez. Good idea.

Swisher’s a little more known than most players of his caliber, thanks to his role in Moneyball. He’s a good player signed at a below-market contract through his age-31 season—guaranteed $22 million for the next three seasons with a $10.25 option for 2012. He had a down year last year, which is part of the reason the Yankees believe that they were able to acquire him.

“The fact of the matter is he had his worst major league season as an everyday player,” Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. “Because of that, that’s probably part of the reason he was in play for an acquisition. We did our due diligence and we’re hoping ’06 and ’07 are more representative of Nick Swisher. That was a risk we were willing to take on.”

To analyze the trade, we first need to analyze whether or not 2008 was a fluke. In 2006 and 2007 he posted batting lines of .254/.372/.493 and .262/.381 /.455, which were well above his .219/.332/.410 in 2008. The biggest hit was to his batting average, the most variable of the big-3 hitting metrics. His ability to walk and hit for power remained somewhat stable—a good sign. PrOPS expected an OPS of .876 compared to his actual .743, indicating more evidence of a fluke season. Also, he’s just entering typical peak years, so it’s a bit early to be expecting aging to be playing a significant negative factor. I agree with Cashman that Swisher should play more like 2006 and 2007 than 2008.

I have Swisher valued as a $19 million/year player over the next four years—well below what he will be paid. Even if he only ends up being a league-average hitter for the rest of his contract, he’ll be worth his wage.

Betemit is a player who always seems like he should be better than he is. Maybe he’ll finally live up to his high expectations—he’ll be just 27 next season despite being around forever—but I’m not optimistic. He’s between a $6–$8 million players and should get between $3–$4 million/year for the next two seasons. I see nothing special in the pitching prospects going to the the Sox, but they do have value as potential cheap major-league talent. Still, it’s not enough to compensate for the lost value from Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira.

In conclusion, this is a bad trade for the Sox, possibly motivated by an impulse to dump an asset that was poorly performing in the short run. I really don’t like when my values differ from the market; but, in this case, I think Swisher would just about have to be a complete disaster for this trade to come out in the Sox’s favor.

3 Responses “Breaking Down the Swisher Deal”

  1. JoshF says:

    Thanks.
    Yeah I think it’s clearly one sided and am a bit surprised at the amount of people who seem to have written him off due to his poor luck and subsequent overall numbers (mostly BA) last season.  I’m really hoping he bounces back but I’ll feel a bit dirty rooting for the Yankees.  Since I began watching baseball in ’89, both of my favorite players (Davie Justice and now Nick Swisher) ended up on the Yankees.  That is just wrong, I really wish the Braves could have done this move for RF then dealt Frenchy…I’m also pretty sure Swisher has said before that playing for the Braves would be a dream come true but I could be mistaken.  Thanks again.

  2. pawlenty says:

    I have Swisher valued as a $19 million/year player over the next four years.

    Is there a decimal point missing in that sentence somewhere?

  3. TimK says:

    I have Swisher valued as a $19 million/year player over the next four years.

    I’d be truly astonished if Swisher came in anywhere near that value.  In any event, I doubt anyone would be paying it unless there’s a massive surge in salaries this year.  Considering that Adam Dunn doesn’t even appear to be a prized commodity with his superior offensive numbers, I think if Swisher was in this year’s free agent market, he’d be lucky to get $10 million.

    I’ve never thought much of Swisher — the Moneyball chapter lauding him was also spent with Billy Beane trashing, among others, Cole Hamels,  Scott Kazmir, Prince Fielder, B.J. Upton,

    Swisher also had a 92 OPS+ last year. Even if he returns to 2006-07 form (125, 127, respectively), that puts him dead even with Pat Burrell over the last two years. Burrell’s not going to get anywhere near 19 million.  While Swisher’s a better defensive player, he’s not a particularly gifted outfielder/first baseman, so I don’t think the difference (or the age difference) is going to bring Swisher an extra $5 million.  His baseball-reference.com comps are worse than Burrell, the only active player similar through age 27 list is Austin Kearns (who’s 28 now). His $8 mm deal is considered a bad contract.  Among his most comparable players, the only active one is Craig Monroe, who was available for under $5 mm last year.

    The Yankees got a steal on this one, because Marquez is a sinker-ball pitcher who has showed only fleeting ability to strike out batters in the minors, Betemit is basically nothing, and the Yankees got a good looking prospect in Texeira in addition to Swisher. But $19 million a year is preposterous, unless Swisher improves his OPS by at least 50 points from his career high.