Nick Swisher: Don’t Go Make My Bro Go!

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Jul 11, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter

Nick Swisher

(33) celebrates after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

An Open Letter to Chris Antonetti to Keep Nick Swisher

I am an avid fantasy baseball player. That doesn’t mean I’m great at it (but I am, though). However, I do have somewhat of a fatal flaw when it comes to managing my team: when I get it in my brain to trade away a player, it becomes my all consuming master plan to get rid of said player, regardless of what I have to give up/take back in a trade. I fear this same mindset has befallen Chris Antonetti with one of my favorite Tribesmen (as well as one of my many fantasy kryptonite players): Nick Swisher. 

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This time of year, general managers field and make calls on just about every player on their respective 40-man rosters. It’s not unlikely for a GM like Antonetti to make a call about someone the level of, say, Giancarlo Stanton before he signed his mammoth extension; and in that same vein, it’s not at all surprising for Antonetti to get a phone call from Billy Beane about Corey Kluber or Michael Brantley. These types of calls happen all the time, and usually don’t lead to much more than “WELP, we don’t want him THAT badly.” But it never hurts to ask.

However, sometimes phone calls take longer than planned and more and more names get exchanged. It appeared after the Tribe acquired Brandon Moss that they would consider trading from their depth at 1B and in right field. The player most likely to be traded was David Murphy, given his contract is much more agreeable to teams taking on his services than the contracts of Swisher and he had a decent-ish enough season last year when compared to the dumpster fire Ryan Raburn put forth.

However, it appears that Swisher, also in the first base/corner outfield logjam, seems to be the name shopped more and more by Antonetti, and to that end I write an open letter to our beloved GM: don’t make my bro go.

The case for keeping Mr. BrOhio is twofold: on the field and off the field. First, the on-field product. Yes, his play in 2014 left much to be desired, especially given the money that was given to him in two winters ago. But Swisher’s 2014 numbers are tainted with injuries, as he never seemed right from the get-go. He had a wrist injury that had to sap him of some power and he eventually hit the DL for surgery on both knees. He has not been medically cleared for baseball activities as of yet, but he has said he will be healthy going into spring training.

A healthy Swisher manning the DH spots on most days will greatly affect the Indians lineup in ways that most fans aren’t seeing. His absence from the 2014 lineup caused the Tribe to be too left-handed. The slash line for the Tribe against all LHP was .252/.312/.360 with an OPS of .672 that was 50 points worse than when they faced a RHP.

Swisher is a switch hitter (which is really hard to say 3 times fast), so he would still start on days when the Tribe might face a tough lefty. While his batting average is lower from the right side, his OPS is 34 points higher, propped up by an OBP that is 58 points higher when facing RHP. He also has averaged 27 home runs a year, and if you were to input even 20 HRs into the lineup from last year, that is an increase that most fans have not taken into consideration and would help balance out the shaky roster buildup for manager Tito Francona.

Jul 11, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (33) celebrates after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a practice in futility to talk about roster mechanics and where to slot guys in January, but a lineup Tito could run out there, barring any other moves, could look like this:

  1. Jason Kipnis hits L at 2B
  2. Jose Ramirez S at SS
  3. Michael Brantley L in LF
  4. Carlos Santana S at 1B
  5. Brandon Moss L in RF
  6. Nick Swisher S at DH
  7. Lonnie Chisenhall batting L at 3B
  8. Yan Gomes catching hitting R
  9. Michael Bourn patrolling CF batting L

It’s a lineup that has switch hitters or righties after every lefty, making opposing managers think twice before wasting a LOOGY to go after a run of hitters, plus gives good speed throughout the lineup.

But Swisher is known for more than just his on-field contributions, and that is in part why a lot of teams continue to blow up Antonetti’s phone for his services. It’s tough to argue and calculate how much Swisher helps in a locker room. He is the man who brought BrOhio into existence with his affable nature and “dudebro” lingo. It may be presumptuous of me to think this, but I really feel like, among injuries, Swisher’s absence had a lot to do with the struggles of the offense late in the season. When players hit the DL, and especially when they are out for the season, it’s rare for them to travel with the team. Swisher was down for the count come August, and you can see a precipitous drop in production when he was not with the team after July, his and arguably the team’s best offensive month. Could he have been more influential in the clubhouse than we previously thought?

Yes, there were other injuries to consider. Kipnis missed giant swaths of time throughout the season and battled an oblique when he was active. Michael Bourn was in and out of the lineup all year as well, which affected the lineup construction more than the others due to having to move Brantley up and around the lineup card.

This is a very complete roster without a lot of holes. The pitching staff is already lights out, the bullpen should be nails, especially if they add Zach McAllister to the ranks. The lineup has added some thump that was missing in the form of Moss and the return to health of Jason Kipnis. David Murphy has value around the league, and while he might not return as much as Swisher, he could definitely bring back something of worth. Please, Mr. Antonetti, don’t make my bro go.

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