Let’s face facts folks, the Melky Cabrera suspension news came out of left field (see what I did there?) and caught us all by surprise. He was the All-Star Game MVP, he was (and still is) Major League Baseball’s leading hitter, and he was making everyone question why the Royals sent him to San Francisco for the carcass that was Jonathan Sanchez.
Then news of the suspension for testing positive for synthetic testosterone dropped and his sudden reinvention in Kansas City a year earlier became a head slapper. But Melky’s mess of a story did not stop there. Word that his handlers had tried to swerve the system with a fake website and supplement tore what little was left of Cabrera’s character to shreds.
A man that was suddenly considered one of the top available free agents on the market in 2013 was just as quickly considered a pariah, and no team will touch him. In what was already considered to be a weak market for available hitters, Cabrera’s grand reveal cost the market another one.
And somewhere, Nick Swisher is just biding his time.
As I said, the market this winter was already considered short on impact hitters. Josh Hamilton and David Ortiz are likely the two most bankable bats on the market this winter. Still, Hamilton is likely going to be a big risk for a lot of teams, both because of his health concerns and because of what his contract demands are likely to be. Ortiz on the other hand, is likely to get the extension he’s been wanting from Boston, though at a price much more to his liking than theirs.
That’s where the market opens up for a guy like Nick Swisher. Despite his Moneyball lineage, Swisher has never become the toolsy, star that Billy Beane predicted. However, what he has done is become a solid, consistent major league hitter that is good for 20-25 home runs a season, 80-90 RBI, and a .820 or greater OPS. Basically speaking, Swisher has been J.D. Drew, but with a better track record of getting himself on the field. In fact, the statistical comparisons between Drew and Swisher are only truly lacking in one area; earnings.
That is where Nick Swisher gets to thank Melky Cabrera.
Swisher was already set to become a free agent at the end of this season. With the Yankees having to pick up expensive options on both Robinson Cano ($15 million) and Curtis Granderson ($13 million) in order to retain their services, the chances that New York also hands Swisher an extension are slim at best. As I said before, he’s been solid and consistent, but the Granderson and Cano are more important to New York in 2013.
So Swisher heads to the open market, where he gets to share the market with Hamilton and Ortiz, plus franchise changers like B.J. Upton (28), Shane Victorino (32), Cody Ross (32), Carlos Lee (37) and Ichiro Suzuki (39). There is the chance that Kevin Youkilis ($13 million club option) and David Wright ($16 million club option) join the merry cast, but for all intents and purposes, no team is going to find that missing piece on this year’s market.
So Swisher is suddenly among the top dogs, especially given his abilities to switch hit and to play both first base and the outfield. And with Cabrera now one more player out of the way, he’s likely set to cash in on the weak crop. And he’ll do it with a smile on his face.