The Nats are possibly without a first baseman, or, if they shift Mike Morse, are missing an outfielder. We’ve looked at the three biggest names that have been bandied about among free agent outfielders: Hamilton, Bourn and Upton. But there is another high end outfielder that is getting significantly less airtime, and that’s Nick Swisher.
Swisher is the next position player on Keith Law’s free agent list after the three named above, sitting at #10. And there is good reason to think Swisher could really help the Nats. First and foremost is his ability to get on base. Swisher has a career .361 OBP, and over the last 4 years it’s been .367. He also has a good amount of power, averaging just over 26 HRs a season over that time. In other words, in comparison to Upton and Bourn, he’s got a better OBP and more power than both of them. He doesn’t have the bat that Hamilton has, but he also hasn’t shown some of the issues Hamilton did at the end of this season, and isn’t near the injury risk he’s played 150 or more games in each of his last 7 seasons, when he only played… 148.
Swisher’s abilities to hit with power and get on base would translate to very good numbers in the NL. He might lose a couple of HRs moving away from the Bronx, but not having to face AL East pitching might be pretty nice, too. Not that there is a dearth of pitching in the NL East, but it is generally assumed numbers improve when you move to the Senior Circuit. In terms of “fit” his power is nice, but that OBP should get Nats fans salivating. It would improve their biggest weakness on offense, and his OBP would have been the second best on the Nats, behind only Werth.
One of the things I like about Swisher, though, is that he’s so damn… likable. He’s a genuinely positive guy, who gets high marks for his attitude and his personality. Although I am much less concerned with how likable a guy is than his ability to play, if it helps keep a clubhouse happy, that is a good thing. Here are a few clips that highlight his demeanor.
On the negative side, he is 2 years older than Bourn, and he is significantly slower than both players. Not that he’s a lumbering ox out there, but he isn’t going to steal any bases, and he can’t cover as much ground as the other guys. Which is also reflected in his defense. It’s not horrible, and is going to be good for a left fielder, but it isn’t anything special. Another issue is the playoff record. While I’m not a believer in that limited sample size being much of a true reflection of what he may do, it’s hard to totally ignore the .169/.283/.305 he’s hit in 181 postseason PAs. Is it pressure? It is a signal that he gets most of his hits off of bad pitchers that he doesn’t get to see in the playoffs? Or is it just a strange coincidence? It might be important to know that.
Swisher wouldn’t be a bad signing for this team, especially because there are some thoughts that he might be available for a relatively cheap deal. Not to say he’s not going to be expensive, but if he’s out there at a significant discount to the other three guys, it’s certainly worth taking a look. And he is likely to deliver 20+ HRs and an OPS of .800 or higher for the foreseeable future, just like he’s done for 6 of the last 7 seasons.