The Red Sox have two holes that free agent Nick Swisher could fill
The Red Sox have a lot of options to play right field for their 2013 club, but none of them is particularly thrilling. Jerry Sands might not have the bat for right, and his glove could be problematic in Fenway's toughest corner. Ryan Kalish is still young enough to turn his career around, but betting on that without a backup plan is a dangerous proposition. Throw in that there is currently a hole at the offense-centric first base, and getting the right player in right becomes even more important to the reloading Sox.
Nick Swisher could help out at either position, so it's no surprise that the Red Sox are thinking about him. Jon Heyman reports that it's not just Boston, but also the Braves, Giants, Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, and Phillies who are looking (or potentially looking) at Swisher. The Red Sox have more money to play with than any of the others, so they have that going for them if it comes to it. But as with Mike Napoli, Swisher is likely to require at least three or four years for a contract, so it's not all about the money. The willingness to ink Swisher for that long has to be there as well.
Does Boston want Swisher, who will be 32 years old, for that length of time? It's very possible, probably more likely than a desire to go four years on Napoli, even. Swisher has been incredibly consistent in his career, thanks to his combination of power, patience, and, athleticism. He was a fine defender in right field for a long time, and owns a 120 OPS+ in the seven seasons following his rookie campaign back in 2005. During that stretch, his OPS+ dipped below 120 just once. He is very quietly one of the more productive right fielders around, and in many ways is similar to the Indians' Shin-Soo Choo.
Not every metric thinks Swisher's defense is a positive as of late, but most do, and he still has the reputation of an above-average defender in right for a reason. As he ages further, he could be better-suited to first base, but right now, he fits in as the right fielder. Things could get a little complicated if Boston signs Mike Napoli first, but they could just as easily mesh together if the Red Sox decide to sign both. Swisher could play right for two years, Napoli first for the same stretch, with Napoli moving to designated hitter and Swisher to first afterward. In this dream scenario, one or more of Boston's outfield prospects is ready to take over in the outfield as well, making it so the Red Sox don't have to spend any more money on the market to account for these positional shifts.
At this point, though, it seems more like Swisher is the backup plan for Napoli, rather than an additional piece. He would cost the Red Sox a draft pick, but if they lose out on Napoli, that might be a necessary price to pay at that point, since they plan to contend both this year and next as they wait for the aforementioned injection of youth. There's certainly a way to make both work, but let's wait until the Red Sox have even one of them in tow before getting to that level of daydreaming.