Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yanks roll the dice with Swisher deal

The Yankees opened free agency on Friday making no secret of where their focus would be.

CC Sabathia was reportedly offered the biggest deal for a pitcher in the history of the game. A bit of a gamble when you're talking about an overworked, overweight left-hander. That said, desperate times call for desperate measures and the Yankees desperately need a true ace. Big offers to right-handers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe are said to be coming as well. The Yankees, it seems, are not messing around with their offseason plan to overhaul their rotation.

Prior to free agency's start, the Yanks made an interesting move Thursday that gives you an idea where they feel they're at offensively heading into 2009. New York acquired 1B/OF Nick Swisher from the Chicago White Sox, dumping Wilson Betemit and two mid-level prospects. Looking at the deal by itself is a no-brainer for general manager Brian Cashman and the Yankees. Betemit was never close to being the player that Cashman coveted before dealing for the strikeout/error machine in 2007. The underlying story of the trade was that it effectively removed the Bombers from the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, a somewhat curious move considering the Yankees' steep offensive decline in 2008.

Listen, Swisher had a poor season under Ozzie Guillen, but he proved in his seasons with the A's that he can be a very effective player. If you can throw out his .219 '08 season -- and I understand if you can't -- Swisher had some nice seasons by the bay, including a 35 homer, 95 RBI year in '06. He'll also be just 28 on opening day, can play first base, is a switch-hitter and he's known to be the gregarious type the stiff Yankees can always use more of in the clubhouse. If nothing else, he helps fill the Oakland Idiot role vacated by Jason Giambi.

But this decision is not without risks. Teixeira was the perfect fit for this Yankees lineup, but New York's pitching-pitching-pitching free agency doctrine simply didn't have a plan for a $120 million first baseman. Can you blame them after the Giambi fiasco? I suppose I'd be gun shy, too.

Barring an unforseen deal, the Yanks now seem content to go into the season with an offense high on potential but also risk. Do you get 2008 Swisher, 2006 Swisher or somewhere in between? Will A-Rod continue his trend of monster seasons every other year? Can you expect another productive season from Jeter? Will Cano regain his stroke after a lost '08? Can Damon remain healthy and effective? Will center field become an offensive albatross? Can Nady be a consistent everyday player? Can we really still expect big numbers from Posada?

Those are a lot of questions. Looking at it in a glass half-full kind of way, the offense will likely be just fine if even half of those answers come back favorably, but Cashman is still rolling the dice here. And if it's June 1 and CC Sabathia has a 2.70 ERA and eight no-decisions?

Too many ... angry and misinformed Hank Steinbrenner ... sound bytes ... brain cannot ... compute.

No comments: