I don't like Nick Swisher.
I don't know if I don't like Nick Swisher because he's a Yankee. I'd like to think that his "Vote Swisher" video (warning: watch at your own risk) from 2010 would have brought me around to an anti-Swisher mindset regardless of what team he was on, but I can't say for sure. If he were a Diamondback, how aware of his existence would I be? If he came to the Red Sox from obscurity rather than infamy, would I be inclined to like him from his numbers, and then be--dare I say it?--won over by his antics?
I like to think not. I like to think that my dislike for Nick Swisher is not at all born of bias. But at the same time I'm hoping that it is something as petty and cheap as that, because I'm starting to think that the move I want the Red Sox to make (to get anyone other than Swisher) is not the move the Red Sox should make.
So far, the Red Sox have put together a pretty serious number of components. Pieces that, when fit together right, can provide some complete players at a number of positions. Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes can platoon in left, where Gomes' (and, if you don't buy last year's improvements, Nava's) glove can be hidden. If Mike Napoli is going to catch a significant amount, David Ross can provide a fantastic glove behind the plate for a change-of-pace as the other semi-starter. First base might still be unfinished if that's the case, but give the Sox some time and they can probably find the right guy to play 80-or-more games there to complement Napoli.
Still, for all that there's a great deal of possibility there, it comes at the cost of reliability. The Sox won't always be able to get the matchups they want, and if someone is injured, the right replacement needs to be found. If Gomes goes down, for instance, where does lefty Ryan Kalish fit into the left field situation? Or if Gomes is batting sixth against a lefty, do we eventually end up with Nava facing a lefty in an all-important ninth-inning at bat and nobody left to hit for him?
What the Red Sox seem to need at the moment, aside from starting pitchers, is a solid all-around player, and that's where Nick Swisher comes in.
The Red Sox are too right-handed heavy? Nick Swisher isn't just a lefty, but a switch-hitter, the best of both worlds. Last year he had a pretty pronounced split, but over the course of his career he's essentially split even down the middle. He's a perfect guy for the Sox to slot in at number five, giving them a strong middle-of-the-order that doesn't need to be tinkered with from at bat to at bat.
The Red Sox are focusing too much on offense at the expense of defense? Well as much as I like to remember Nick Swisher's worst moments, UZR at least seems to think he's got a decent handle on right field, and over the past few years DRS doesn't put him at all far below average. He's no mastermind out there, but he can hold down the fort about as well as anyone else who's both available and has ever seen a bat before.
The Red Sox need to avoid another clubhouse meltdown at all costs? Well, as much as I don't like Nick Swisher for all his antics, his teammates certainly don't seem to mind, and he seems like a guy the media would get behind as much for defecting from New York as for his willingness to give them fun material to work with.
The real question, as with all free agents, is how much would he cost? And this is quite the question indeed. Depending on who you ask, Swisher could go for as little as Napoli, or could well one-up B.J. Upton in terms of total value. While neither one is likely a realistic answer, it gives you the idea of the range we're working with here.
Some observers think Swisher is waiting for Hamilton to sign and set the market, but even if that's the case for now, we might see that change in a hurry based on the surprisingly short offers we're seeing in that area. The thing is, for all that the speedy center fielders are seeing some serious action come there way, it doesn't seem like the same is true for the standard corner outfielder. Jonny Gomes came to Boston cheap, Cody Ross doesn't seem to be getting any impressive offers, Ryan Ludwick hasn't been heard from since heading out to sea on November 17, and Shane Victorino has set his own market at a fairly reasonable level, asking for somewhere in the neighborhood of three years and $30 million.
Now, of all those options Swisher is definitely the most impressive, but how much of a bump should that give his contract over the next best guy? And what about when you throw Hamilton's name in the mix?
I don't think that Swisher is going to come here for Napoli money. But right now there's no indication that there's a 5/80 deal for a 32-year-old out there. At something closer to 4/52, Swisher starts to become a lot more tempting for the balance he could bring to the team. The question will always remain with this and the next offseason: is it worth it to risk any money in 2015-and-beyond to pick up a good player today? Are we pushing too hard on a season that does not represent our best chance to succeed? But for all that I wish I could just push Nick Swisher away and forget that he exists, he's probably a good enough fit for this team that he should at least make it to that late level of consideration.