Swisher to Indians

We knew Nick Swisher wasn’t going to be coming back as a Yankee, but we just wondered where he’d wind up. Baltimore? Dodgers? Phillies?

With the Indians trade of Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds, a spot opened up in Cleveland for the former Buckeye, and Swisher is headed there. Swisher and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame do seem to mesh. The Yankees haven’t been giving out multi-year deals (except to the 39 yr. old Ichiro) and Swish got a 4-yr., $56 MM deal with the Tribe, with a $14 MM vesting option for a fifth year.

As for the Yankees’ holes, we can only wonder if Cashman has a trade forthcoming. As of now, here are the options, internally.

OF: The OF right now has Granderson, Gardner and Ichiro. Chris Dickerson could backup, but he’s another lefty bat. They need a righty bat. They’d like Scott Hairston, who’ll be 33 next year, can play all three OF positions as well as 2B. Hairston, who spent 2012 with the Mets, is looking for a multi-year deal (aren’t they all?) and that may be a deal-breaker. He hit .263-20-57, OPS+ 117 for the Mets in 2012 and is a .247 career hitter, OPS+ 100. Average player, but has pop. 162 g. ave: .247-20-58.

Internal options could be Melky Mesa, 26 next year who was 1 for 2 with an RBI in a brief September callup last year. Mesa hit .264-23-67 between AA/AAA last year with 22 SB. He provides some athleticism and speed that’s sorely needed but you wonder if he is ready. He’s only had 33 games at AAA (.230-9-21) and that .230 average makes you wonder. Also, at age 26, he’d be an old rookie. He’s mostly played CF and RF.

They also could give Ronnier Mustelier a shot. The 28-yr. old defector from Cuba hit .314-15-69 with 10 SB between AA/AAA last year. But unlike Mesa, Mustelier got more time at AAA and did well (89 games, .303-10-49) and probably has an upper hand. Mustelier has spent time at LF, RF and also 3B. He’s also played a couple games at 2B and CF. This may be to his advantage as he tries to make the team. He hasn’t been invited to major league camp yet. That should change. I was surprised he wasn’t brought up last year. I wanted him to replace Andruw Jones last midseason. Heck, Jones (now to play in Japan), hit only .197 last year. After the ASG he was just .142-3-12. You would think Mustelier could have done better than that.

In 150 minor league games, Mustelier has a .324-18-96 line with 19 SB. I’d give him a shot at that righty-hitting, backup OF job.

As for DH, who knows? Ibanez and Jones are both gone. Maybe it’d be best to DH Jeter the first half of the year because he’s coming off that fractured ankle. It’d be nice to see Nunez get some playing time. He, Ichiro and Gardner could provide a speed dimension to the club that was sorely lacking last year. The problem is, with the catching situation (I’ll get to that in a bit), where will the power come from, esp. with A-Rod out for half the year? Having a weak-hitting C in the lineup, along with Ichiro, Nunez AND Gardner means not much pop at all.

Not only that, but if Jeter DH’s and Nunez plays SS, you wonder about Nunez’ defense. Jeter’s range is not the greatest, has been criticized for years. and could be worse after the injury. But at least he is sure-handed, unlike Nunez.

Nunez, 26 next year, has just an 88 OPS+, but he’s interesting because his 162 g. average is .272-6-43 with 34 SB. But Cashman says he’s just a SS, and not a utility guy.

I really wonder if the Yanks should just go with Nix as the utility IF and trade Nunez while Nunez’ value is high. Nix can play 2B, SS and 3B and some OF. He hit just .243-4-18 last yr., OPS+ 86 and is just .214 with an OPS+ of 75 in his career. He doesn’t have the speed of Nunez but is more sure-handed.

They have to find a way to utilize Nunez and his speed, or trade him.

Of course, once A-Rod returns from his hip surgery, it may be in the Yanks’ best interest to DH Alex (not to stress the hip) and keep Youkilis at 3B. By then, hopefully Jeter won’t need as many DH at bats and his ankle is fully recovered. Time will tell.

But there is now the question of power. Cano, Granderson and Teixeira (switch-hitter) provide pop, but you lost lefty power in Ibanez and Swisher. So what kind of lefty-hitting DH is there?

I can’t see it being Dickerson, 31 next year. The Yanks probably want someone more experienced. Dickerson has 518 MLB at bats, .266-11-47 with 27 SB. OPS+ 101. He probably deserves a shot somewhere but the Yanks already have three lefty-hitting OF. Outside of DH, he wouldn’t have a chance to play, not with the starting OF of Ichiro, Gardner and Granderson. He hit .316-7-25, 17 SB in 69 AAA games last year. I just can’t see a DH platoon of Dickerson/Nunez, although both would provide more athleticism and speed.

Two DH options out there with pop are two old guys. You know I’m not big on getting older.

One is Lance Berkman, who, as a switch-hitter, would be a good option. You don’t want two DH-only types on your team. If you can just have one, who switch-hits and can DH every day, that’s a good thing (think Chili Davis in 1999). Berkman is good friends with Andy Pettitte, and was with the Yanks in 2010.

However “Fat Elvis” didn’t exactly do that well his first time in the Bronx. the 1B/OF hit just .255-1-9 in 106 AB (37 games), OPS+ 90 in 2010. He did go 5 for 16, 1 HR, 4 RBI in the postseason that year for the Yanks.

Berkman did have a rebound season in 2011, winning a WS ring with St. Louis, hitting .301-31-94, OPS+ 164 and finishing 7th in the MVP voting. But last year he played in just 32 games, getting only 81 at bats, hitting .259-2-7, OPS+ 126.

If healthy, Berkman could be decent one-year option at age 37. His 162 g. average is .296-32-108, OPS+ 146. He has 360 career HR (two more than Yogi, one less than Joe D.) and that 162 g. average includes 104 walks. He has a good eye, and along with Youkilis, would give the Yanks some good at bats, lots of walks and help wear pitchers out. He is a 6x All-Star, and has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times.

But is he healthy? Is there anything left in his tank? We’ve seen the fading Berkman before he resurrected himself in 2011. Can he put up decent numbers again or was 2011 the last hurrah (FYI, Berkman’s 2011 WS was superb: 11 for 26).

The other option would be Jim Thome. Thome’s big body and lefty swing along with the short porch make you wonder what he could have done playing in Yankee Stadium his whole career. But Thome is 42, 43 next August. He’d strictly DH vs. righty pitching and while Berkman can probably still play a game at 1B or in a corner OF spot occasionally, Thome cannot play the field anymore. He’s played just nine games in the field since 2005.

While it would be interesting to see the first set of teammates wherein each teammate has over 600 HR (Alex 647, Thome 612), you wonder about the lumbering Thome.

He still had something left in 2012, hitting .252-8-25 in 163 at bats for the Phils and Baltimore. His OPS+ was 112. On a one-year deal, he might be ok. But he can’t play the field and hasn’t had 300 AB’s in a season since 2009.

His 162 g. average is .276-39-108, OPS+ 147 with 111 walks.

You wonder if Berkman or Thome on a one-year option would be a path the Yankees might take.

If so, I probably would prefer Berkman. Switch-hitter, can probably fill in in the field more.

You also wonder if Nunez could be trade bait, esp. if the Yanks could get some help for him. Besides Nix, maybe one of these two in-house minor leaguers could be a backup IF:

David Adams: 26 next May. His ankle injury made Seattle scrap the Cliff Lee to the Yankees deal a few years ago. Adams, 26 next May, hit .306-8-48 in 86 games at AA in 2012 but the 2b/3B (mostly 2b) hasn’t played a game above the AA level.

Corban Joseph is 24 and a lefty bat (unlike Adams, who bats righty). Joseph does have 84 games of AAA experience, .266-13-56. Nice numbers. He hit .276-15-62 in 107 games in 2012, AA/AAA. Like Adams, 2B/3B, mostly at 2B.

As for catcher, who knows. Cervelli, Stewart, Romine (24, and with just 21 games of AAA experience) and Bobby Wilson. Cervelli is the best hitter of the bunch, but probably the worst defender. Cervelli has 490 MLB at bats, .271-5-71, OPS+ 84. Romine is just 3 for 19 as a major leaguer, and as mentioned, just 21 AAA games. Stewart hit .241-1-13, OPS+ 67 in 141 at bats for the Yanks last year but is a .217 hitter with an OPS+ of 61 in 351 career at bats. Wilson hit .211-3-13, OPS+ 63 for the Angels in 2012 and is just a .208 career hitter in 389 at bats, OPS+ 67.

You wonder what catchers may be available. I also wonder if Nunez may be the trade bait to get that catcher.

The problem is, Nix then becomes your backup SS. Adams & Joseph have some nice minor league numbers, but neither has played SS.

Are you asking about Ramiro Pena? He signed with the Braves. Of course, Pena couldn’t hit…

I’m wondering what moves the Yanks will be making. They will need to make some… and soon.

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