Jul 12, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (33) walks back to the dugout after striking out during the seventh inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. The White Sox beat the Indians 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
We all know “That Guy”. He’s the typical uneducated Indians fan clamoring for that Right Handed Power Bat, petitioning to get rid of solid players after a down season, yelling at the front office for not calling up top prospects as soon as possible, and vowing that he won’t come to the stadium until the Indians start spending money on the top tier free agents. “That Guy” can be a pain in the butt, but Wahoo’s on First is here to help keep him quiet and, better yet, educate him.
This time, That Guy is pulling for the team to get rid of Nick Swisher.
That Guy: Nick Swisher? More like Nick Whiffer. O-H… I suck! He’s come to Cleveland and done nothing but weigh the team down, yo! The Indians need to do whatever they can to trade him away before the season starts. I don’t care what they get in return or how much of his salary they have to pay; dude needs to be on the next plane out of Cleveland.
Wahoo’s on First: Chill out, That Guy. The founder of Brohio is likely staying put for the time being. But that’s not necessarily bad news.
That Guy: You gotta be trying to pull a fast one on me or something, bro. I’ve been checking out this “wins above replacement” thing you’ve been telling me about lately, and Swish had -1.6 WAR last year. Doesn’t that mean he was worse than the average guy in Triple-A?
Wahoo’s on First: Glad to see you’ve been doing your homework, That Guy. There’s certainly no denying that Swisher’s performance last year was a detriment to the team and likely hurt them in their playoff hunt, but we have to consider the fact that he was playing through injuries the whole time. He got surgery on both his knees near the end of the season last year, and should be ready to go by spring training.
That Guy: But he’s 33! That’s old, dude. How do we know he’ll recover?
Sep 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) hits the game-winning two-run home run in the tenth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Red Sox won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Wahoo’s on First: Put simply, we don’t. Knee surgery can be messy, and at age 33 there’s no guarantee that a player’s knees will ever return to what they once were after a surgery of this type. However, this surgery isn’t all that rare in the world of baseball (though arthroscopic knee surgery as a result of meniscus wear and tear is more common to catchers), and many players have made full recoveries. Catchers Salvador Perez, Miguel Montero and Russell Martin all had similar arthroscopic knee surgery at some point in their careers. All three of those players have since recovered and have put up strong offensive numbers for their respective teams. Admittedly, those players were much younger than Swisher when they went under the knife. However, both Chipper Jones and David Ortiz had similar surgery well into their thirties and were able to put up excellent numbers upon returning to the field.
That Guy: So it’s not a death sentence, that’s cool. Still, he wasn’t even that great in 2013. Why bother taking the risk? There’s got to be some stupid team that will take on part of his contract. Let them be stuck with Swisher.
Wahoo’s on First: You’re absolutely right about one thing: there are definitely teams who would be willing to take on part of his contract. The key words, however, are “part of”. Baseball contracts are a lot like stock; you obtain them for a certain price, and they gain or lose value based on a number of factors that the buyer has little control over. Coming off a poor season that ended with double knee surgery, Swisher’s stock is way down. The Indians have already explored trading him, and I’d be willing to bet that the offers they got reflected his poor stock.
That Guy: But his contract is already a sunk cost! Why not get back something for it instead of letting it go to waste? The same thing happened with Pronk. You’d think that the front office would have learned their lesson by now.
Wahoo’s on First: I understand your disappointment with former Indians DH Travis Hafner and the albatross his contract put on the team for years, but it’s a far cry from Swisher’s situation. Over the course of his time with the Indians, Hafner had separate surgeries on his knee, foot and shoulder. During his career, he also missed time with a broken hand as well as back inflammation. He made 7 trips to the DL between 2007 and 2012. Swisher, on the other hand, had been nearly injury-free throughout his entire career before 2014. A player’s first surgery does not mean that his contract is a “sunk cost”. If the Indians wanted to get rid of him for anything whatsoever, he’d be gone by now.
That Guy: You mean they’ve kept him on purpose? What a bunch of goons!
Wahoo’s on First: Slow down and think about it for a second. If you’ve already bought stock, would you sell it for pennies on the dollar if it has a chance to regain some value? Swisher’s career-worst season in 2014 came directly following 9 straight years with 20 home runs or more. Although he’s certainly not worth $15 million a year at this point, he’s worth something. There’s still a chance he could hit 20 homers again, and even if he doesn’t, he arguably has a much better chance of putting up a win’s worth of production than he does of being in the negatives again. His history of consistently solid performance before the injuries set in merits some consideration, and it keeps his stock floating well above the floor.
That Guy: So you’re saying the Indians should just keep him and hope he bounces back instead of trying to salvage the contract? That seems dumb, yo.
Wahoo’s on First: That’s not what I’m saying. If they can get a fair return, they should absolutely seize the opportunity. But the key word there is “fair”. In accounting terms, Swisher should still be treated as an asset (albeit a severely overpriced one) rather than a liability, and therefore any trade involving him should return assets of similar value. If the Indians traded him for less than they feel he’s worth, they wouldn’t be recouping value on his contract. Much to the contrary, they’d be depreciating the value of their purchase even further. Remember, baseball is a business, and just like any business, a baseball team has to manage its assets carefully.
Jul 13, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Ryan Raburn (9) scores on a single by catcher Yan Gomes (not pictured) in the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
That Guy: Alright, I get that Swisher is worth something. But the Indians have more outfielders than I can count on one hand, dawg, and we can’t use all of them. Trading him for less than he’s worth might suck, but don’t you think it’d make sense just to clear some space on the roster for other players?
Wahoo’s on First: Not even a little bit. First of all, Swisher is unique to the Tribe’s current outfield setup in that he’s the only switch-hitter. Furthermore, of the other four outfielders currently projected to make the opening day roster, only Ryan Raburn can hit right-handed. Swisher’s versatility is a factor, as he can play first base and DH as well as a corner outfield spot. There’s also the matter of his experience, as well as his intangible qualities like veteran presence and clubhouse chemistry. On top of all that, there’s still the matter of depth to consider. To put it bluntly, trading the veteran switch-hitter for less than he’s worth just because we have an outfield surplus doesn’t make any sense.
That Guy: I see your point. It all makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. I guess I was just wicked bummed about Swish not living up to my expectations.
Wahoo’s on First: We all are. But as we’ve learned, that’s not a reason to get rid of him at all costs. Swisher’s contract may look like a bad one at this point, but as a player he still has a unique skill set and some level of value. Beyond that, he’s a nice guy and has more enthusiasm than most of us would know what to do with. If anything, he needs our optimism and support right now. Cleveland fans cheering him on would certainly do him more good than jeering, booing and beating him down. And in the end, wouldn’t we rather help him succeed?
Have you heard a stereotypical “That Guy” complaint lately? We hear a lot of them, but there are plenty of unique ones we may not have caught wind of. If you want us to write about yours, e-mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.