Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees celebrates his solo homerun in the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics on August 24, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher is in the final year of his contract and reports indicate that the Yankees and Swisher are not talking about a new deal. Question is, whether the Yankees do it now or after the season, should they sign Swisher to a long-term deal or move on without him after the 2012 season?
I vote for moving on without him.
I that is unlikely to be a popular stance with the Yankee fanbase. Swisher is a popular figure who loves to interact with the fans, brings a gregarious, fun attitude to the field and -- most importantly -- has been a good player for the Yankees.
Swisher, 31, is an eight-year veteran coming off the best three-year stretch of his career. He has averaged 27 home runs, 85 RBI and has been 3.2, 4.1 and 3.8 Wins Above Replacement in his three seasons as a Yankee. Basically, Swisher's time with the Yankees has been the best sustained play of his career. Really, there is little reason to think the switch-hitting Swisher won't produce similar numbers in 2012.
Then, why not sign him to a long-term deal?
Because I believe Swisher will never be better than he has been for the Yankees the past three seasons. He is a patient hitter, as his .374 on-base percentage a season ago suggests. And he does hit for some power. And yes, he is a popular figure.
What Swisher is not, though, is an athletic outfielder. He throws terribly. Yes, his UZR/150 (runs above/below average for 150 games) was +8.8 in 2011, above his career average, but that isn't likely to get any better. It's likely to get worse as he ages.
I think the Yankees made a brilliant move getting Swisher from the Chicago White Sox for next-to-nothing before the 2009 season. I think, though, that signing him long-term after this season would be a case of paying relatively big money for a player whose skills will be in decline. The Yankees, quite honestly, have enough of that going on with their roster already.
I believe the end of Swisher's contract provides the Yankees with an opportunity. While there are no potential free-agent outfielders who leap off the page as must-have's next offseason, Swisher's impending free agency gives the aging Yankees an opportunity to get younger and more athletic.
Shoot, depending on how the 2012 season goes it might even give the Yankees an obvious landing spot for Derek Jeter if the Captain shows declining defensive skills this season.