Former New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher is the most underrated, and undervalued, free agent on the market this winter. With the market dwindling after B.J. Upton and Josh Hamilton signed, teams are starting to turn their attention to the former All-Star.
At 32 years old, Swisher is entering an interesting part of his career. His peak years are behind him, but the level of consistency he has shown over the years makes it seem like a decline won't hit him as hard as it could someone like, say, Hamilton.
For his career, Swisher has a slash line of .256/.361/.467 and he averages 63 extra-base hits with good defense in right field. He also has some versatility, as he can play first base for a team if they don't need an everyday outfielder.
With the market finally taking shape for Swisher, here is our ranking of the best possible destinations for him, based on the report from Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston that says San Francisco, Boston, New York and Cleveland are in the mix.
No. 4 San Francisco Giants
The Giants have been rewarding a lot of the players who helped lead them to a World Series last season with extensions, like Angel Pagan, Jeremy Affeldt and Marco Scutaro, but they haven't really gone outside their comfort zone.
Considering that their payroll is expanding, not to mention the fact that Buster Posey will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2013, adding Swisher doesn't seem to be in the Giants' best interest right now.
The lineup could use a patient hitter like Swisher, but they don't have any reason to be concerned about where the offense is at right now. It also doesn't hurt that the Giants have the pitching staff to get by with a league-average offense.
No. 3 Boston Red Sox
The top three teams on this list could be arranged in any order and I wouldn't argue with it. The Red Sox are having an interesting offseason. Although I am not necessarily sure it is a good one, or one that will put them above Tampa Bay, Toronto and New York in the division.
Ryan Dempster is a good value at two years, not to mention the fact he fills a huge void in the middle of the rotation. Shane Victorino at three years was a dumb move that will backfire on them right away.
And who knows what's going on with Mike Napoli. The most recent report came from Will Carroll of Sports Illustrated saying that the Red Sox want to get him to take fewer years.
Hearing that the Napoli deal back in negotiations, with team asking Napoli to take less years but same AAV. Swisher Plan B.— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) December 13, 2012
Swisher would provide some semblance of comfort, because he has no health issues (at least none that are known) and is a better all-around player than Napoli. I just don't know what, exactly, the Red Sox are trying to do this offseason.
No. 2 New York Yankees
It seems odd that the Yankees are almost forgotten in this whole thing, though fans were disillusioned with Swisher following his performance in the playoffs (because he was the only one who struggled).
But there is a clear and definite need for the Yankees in the outfield. Swisher is as consistent as any player available, and he has proven that he can perform in New York. Unless the Yankees have something big working on the trade market, Swisher is their best option for right field.
Swisher might be priced out of the Yankees' range, as laughable as that sounds, if they are serious about getting under the luxury tax by 2014, but you also need players who can produce to help you win in 2013.
No. 1 Cleveland Indians
The Indians are apparently pulling out all the stops to lure Swisher. According to Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 in Cleveland, he had dinner with Indians president Mark Shapiro on Monday night.
Source: Nick Swisher coming to Cleveland tonight. Having dinner with #Indians team president Mark Shapiro this evening.— Nick Camino (@CaminoTribe) December 17, 2012
Even though I don't think the Indians are that close to competing, mainly because of their starting pitching, the American League Central is not exactly loaded with great teams. A move here or there and you can compete.
The Indians have a clear need to make an upgrade in their outfield after trading Shin-Soo Choo in that three-way trade last week. They need to add someone to their lineup with patience and power.
Plus, because of his age and the fact he isn't a superstar, he is not completely out of Cleveland's price range. I would much rather see the team take the money it reportedly offered Shane Victorino (four years, $44 million) and give all of it to Swisher.