Michael Bourn’s market is still unclear, and instead it’s Nick Swisher who seems to have become the most desirable player still on the free agent market. He’s the best middle-of-the-order bat out there, and plenty of teams could still use an impact hitter.
Swisher has been linked to the Rangers, Phillies, Mariners, Red Sox and Orioles, but it’s the Indians who are reportedly meeting with him tonight. Why does that matter to the Yankees? Mostly because of the alternatives.
1. By signing with the Indians, Swisher would go to a team that’s still trying to put all the pieces together. The Yankees wouldn’t have to face him nearly 20 times next season (like they would if he signed with the Orioles or Red Sox) and they probably wouldn’t have to worry about facing him in the playoffs (like they might if he signed with the Rangers). In terms of impacting next season, the Yankees would probably prefer to see Swisher land in Cleveland, Seattle or Philadelphia.
2. By signing with the Indians, Swisher would go to one of only two rumored-to-be-interested teams that have protected draft picks. Under the new rules, the Top 10 picks are protected when signing a qualifying free agent, and both the Indians and Red Sox have Top 10 picks. The draft impact on the Yankees is minimal — the Yankees only get a supplemental pick in return, they don’t take over the signing team’s draft position — but there is a mild benefit to Swisher signing with a non-protected team. At the very least, if Swisher signed with a team that doesn’t have a protected pick, the Yankees would move up one spot in the first round. They’ve already moved up two spots because of the Braves (B.J. Upton) and Angels (Josh Hamilton) signing qualifying free agents.