Nick Swisher will have to take his classic mullet and above-average game to Chicago in 2008.
Nick Swisher has been a slightly better than average hitter from the left side over the duration of his career, and for the past two seasons has shown a proclivity to mash as a right-handed hitter (he posted a .910 OPS in 2006 and a .922 OPS in 2007 from the right side). The problem is he’d be much better off with the opposite splits, since he spends most of his time facing right-handed pitchers (simply because there are many more righties than lefties in the world).
He currently is underpaid, having yet to enter his expensive arbitration years, meaning his value is similar to that of the recently departed Dan Haren–he’s a player any team would love to have sheerly based on ability, but his production per dollar makes him much more in-demand than he will be once he closes in on free agency.
Because of this, I find the deal the Athletics just completed with the Chicago White Sox, one that sent the White Sox’ top pitching prospect Gio Gonzalez to the A’s, along with two other potential Major League contributors, pitcher Faustino De Los Santos and outfielder Ryan Sweeney, a coup for Billy Beane.
The Athletics traded a guy who is older than you think (he’s 27) and would most likely not fit into their plans for long once the team is ready to contend again in two or three years for three quality prospects. Ryan Sweeney has a chance to be nearly as good as Swisher in 5 years and will make many times less money, while Gonzalez and De Los Santos, two guys with live arms who have missed bats to this point in their careers, only add to the stable of young arms Oakland has collected recently.
Meanwhile, on the south side of Chicago, White Sox GM Kenny Williams continues to try to make his team a contender, but has thus far upgraded his offense at the cost of pitching, making the whole endeavor moot. Swisher should be a solid player for the Sox, giving them a nice line-up, one that could be potentially potent if Jermaine Dye returns to form and regression avoids Chicago’s other hitters, but the picture is not yet complete.
If Kenny Williams can somehow find another three quality pitchers to deepen his questionable staff, then we can call Chicago a contender. As of now, it looks like Chicago is mortgaging its future for another third or fourth place finish in the AL Central.