Finding a Role for Nick Swisher
Laurel Wilder | On 11, Dec 2014
With the Indians’ acquisition of Brandon Moss, the talks have started that someone will need to go in order to make room on the field for the first baseman/outfielder. The only question is, who would that be?
Carlos Santana will be returning as the Tribe’s first baseman, while the entire outfield is back in Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, and David Murphy. Ryan Raburn is also in the mix as an option in the outfield and as DH. Of course, Nick Swisher is another member of the Tribe’s roster whose status is a question mark with the Moss trade.
if money were notwithstanding, the best-scenario would be for the Indians to do away with Swisher, who is coming off double-knee surgery and one of the worst years of his career. However, the Indians are stuck with Swisher’s hefty contract, making him pretty unappealing to other teams who do not want to be burdened by his high price sticker.
Bourn is also tied down with a large contract, and Brantley is not a player the Indians are likely to part with any time soon. Despite trade talks being mentioned involving Santana, it’s also unlikely the Indians would deal him to another team. Murphy and Raburn could potentially be expendable, and are probably the two with the most realistic chance of being exchanged for other team needs.
However, that still sticks the Indians with Swisher. More and more, it seems that there is just not the need for him on the roster. He bounced around the field last season, as well as in the lineup, playing first, outfield, batting leadoff, and moving to DH once his knees began to pose a problem to his play.
Should Swisher be able to redeem himself and demonstrate worth, even with the addition of a player such as Moss, the Indians would definitely benefit from his contributions. However, there is no guarantee that a comeback of that sort will happen.
On Twitter, Monte the Colorman raised an interesting question that sparked some deep baseball thinking in this writer’s mind this week: Should his injuries persist or should he be forced to take a back seat after acquisitions of players such as Moss and the strengths of current Tribe players, could Swisher be anything close to a 2013 Jason Giambi for the Indians’ clubhouse?
Granted, the comparison is a bit of comparing apples to oranges. The two are very different players, both on and off the field, so to think that they could have the exact same impact on the team is, of course, faulty thinking. The Indians more or less need Swisher to play every day to make his hefty contract even a little bit worth it for them; they didn’t have that same need with Giambi. However, should his on-the-field contributions not make his playing worth it, can he bring some other talent to the clubhouse to make a different sort of impact?
In 2013, Giambi not only had status as a wise, seasoned baseball veteran among young players, he also had the ability to produce amazing, almost magical, results for the team. No one will forget Giambi’s headfirst slide that knocked his helmet askew, nor his pinch-hitting bombs that brought about the phrase, “It’s Mardi Gras in September!” Giambi was a player that other players knew and respected, and despite his inability to play every day, he made himself valuable to his team. He provided advice and guidance to younger members of the team, and was a player-mentor in all senses of the word.
Swisher doesn’t seem to have that same emotional potential to provide for the team. Yes, he has experience in major markets and could provide invaluable advice to younger players dealing with their first tastes of fame in professional baseball. However, Swisher’s schtick seems to be more crowd-pleasing antics and hype than substantial advice giving. Swisher would arguably be little more than a $30 million cheerleader, while Giambi had a personality that lent itself more to that of a player-manager.
Swisher did have a few game-changing moments last season, but they were few and far between. He hit a walk-off grand slam in June, similar to Giambi’s masterpieces in 2013, though not enough to warrant too intense a comparison. Swisher does have the potential to be a strong hitter if his injuries would not plague him again this season, which could make for an interesting sometimes-addition to the lineup.
However, the bottom line is that Swisher doesn’t have the same player-development power that was loved with Giambi. Swisher is better served to provide a sense of urgency and energy, while Giambi provided player support and guidance in the dugout. Their personalities lend themselves to two different ways of support, though Swisher’s may not be as readily accepted as Giambi’s, both by his teammates and by fans. The bottom line, though, is that the Indians need Swisher to contribute to the team in some way, though the question will remain in just what way that could be.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images