Tuesday, December 18, 2012
When Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano turned down one year, $13.3MM qualifying offers from the Yankees, it was obvious there time in New York was officially over. The two are among the handful of valuable players that are still available via the free agent market.
It's no surprise that Swisher had not signed up until now given the market had to be set first by Josh Hamilton, the biggest prize among every day players. In the case of Soriano, I suspect agent Scott Boras have overvalued the market. (Boras blames players of a lesser value - he specifically mentioned Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino - for getting too much money and throwing things off. Wait, what? Boras said someone is overpaid?!)
It came as no surprise when Soriano opted out of the three year, $35MM deal he had with the Yankees with one year remaining. Soriano took advantage of closer Mariano Rivera's misfortune in 2012 to save 42 games in 46 attempts. With Jose Valverde being the only other closer on the market who has had recent success (2011, he stunk this past season), one would think there would be plenty of teams willing to sign Soriano to a three or four year big money deal. Boras pushed the Tigers hard to replace Valverde with Soriano but has been rebuffed in his attempts thus far.
Swisher put together a steady regular season resume with the Yankees from 2009 - 2012. Swisher's .850 OPS was accompanied by an average of 26 HR and 83 RBI. He also walked more than 90 times in a season in half of his career in the Bronx.
As steady as he was during the regular season, Swisher was just as unreliable during the post-season. His 5-30 (.167) showing in two playoff series this past Fall left him with a career split of .169/.283/.305 in 181 post-season plate appearances.
The Cleveland Indians have been the team most mentioned when Swisher's names comes up. The switch-hitting outfielder is said to be looking for a four year deal in his first entree into the free agent extravaganza. He earned $10.25MM last season and recently turned 32-years old.
Other outfielders still available include Michael Bourn, Scott Hairston, and Cody Ross. The Yankees have reportedly shown some interest in the soon-to-be 30-year old Bourn. The Yankees are hopeful they'll get a new two-year deal done soon with Ichiro Suzuki, who with Curtis Granderson, and Brett Gardner, would split outfield time with a right-handed bat.
The left-handed hitting Bourn would not fit that bill and is a similar type of player to Gardner, who made about a third of Bourn's salary last year. If the Yankees were to deal Curtis Granderson, it would relieve them of $15MM in salary, but leave a substantial power hole in the lineup. Considering he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season, it makes no sense to deal Granderson, especially if he can recapture his 2011 swing.
Hairston would be a decent fit for the Yankees if he can approach the .803 OPS he compiled with the Mets last season. Hairston has battled injuries often in his career, but played in 134 games last season and hit 20 home runs for the first time.
This is the second consecutive season as a free agent for Ross, who signed a one year deal with Boston for just $3MM prior to the 2012 season. It was less than half the amount he had earned with the San Francisco Giants the year before. The righty hitting outfielder hit 22 HR and drove in 81 runs for the Red Sox and added an .807 OPS. But there was a wide chasm between his Fenway Park numbers and those he put together on the road. (.921 OPS at home; .684 on the road) The Phillies are said to be interested in bringing Ross back to the National League, where he had played the previous seven years.
First baseman Adam LaRoche appears set to cash in on his 2012 season in which he hit a career high 33 home runs for the Washington Nationals and matched his career high of 100 RBI. The Nats would like to retain LaRoche's services, but so far the two sides have not been able to agree on the length and amount of a contract.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski will be 36-years old before the calendar changes to 2013, but one of the game's lightning rods is still in demand. It's largely due Pierzynski's 27 HR, 77 RBI campaign last season and his ability to handle a pitching staff. Yankees fans would love to see Pierzysnki brought in with a two-year deal to bolster the current group of catchers as well as to mentor guys like Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez.