In late May, the Orioles gave Adam Jones the largest contract in franchise history. Late Monday night, the Dodgers locked up Andre Ethier with a five-year deal. The outfield market is already being defined, and that matters for Yankees and Nick Swisher.
Swisher becomes a free agent at the end of this season, and the deals for Jones and Ethier are already helping to establish his open-market value. Jones got six years, $85.5 million from Baltimore, but he’s a 26-year-old center fielder. Not a perfect comparison for Swisher. Really, it’s the Ethier deal that gives a glimpse into Swisher’s perceived worth.
Ethier and Swisher have had pretty similar numbers the past three seasons, but Ethier is a year younger, he’s having a better season, he’s played his entire big league career in L.A. and he’s the second-best hitter in that Dodgers lineup. He’s probably worth more than Swisher — especially to the Dodgers — but the feeling in Los Angeles seems to be that Ethier could have gotten more than his five years, $85 million had he really pushed negotiations and tried to get as much as possible.
Bottom line: Even if Swisher can’t get quite what Ethier got, he probably won’t be far behind. He’s certainly not going to sign for something like three years, $30 million, no matter how much he loves New York. If the Yankees want to bring him back, it’s going to cost them.
Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino and Carlos Quentin are also on track to become free agents this winter, so the market provides some outfield alternatives, but the Yankees would rather cut payroll than add another big-money, multi-year contract. They’re already going to have to pick up expensive options on Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano next season. The most viable and immediate organizational options might be Eduardo Nunez (if the Yankees wanted to move him to the outfield) or Ronnier Mustelier (if the Yankees believe his minor league success can carry over).
I said this winter that I expect Swisher to move on — and I still think that’ll happen — but it’s hard to say how the Yankees will fill that void in right field. Do they sign another high-cost free agent? Do they role the dice with a younger player? Do they employ a cheap Ibanez/Jones-type platoon? Or do they stick with the guy they know and pay market price?
After Ethier’s deal, is more or less likely that Swisher spends another season in pinstripes?
Associated Press photo