November 14, 2008
Tis' the season to be dealing, so in a recurring feature, Big League Stew analyzes the bigger off-season trades made around the majors. This is Fair Trade.
What's the deal: On Thursday, the Chicago White Sox traded Nick Swisher and minor-league right-hander Kanekoa Texeira to the New York Yankees for pitching prospect Jeff Marquez, major-league infielder Wilson Betemit and minor-league pitcher Jhonny Nunez.
What the Yankees get: Brian Cashman is hoping that Swisher's worst season (.219/.332/.410) is a one-time-only event. His career numbers — .244/.354/.451, along with 28 homers, 86 RBIs and 91 walks for every 162 games — are what they are. Swisher, 28, might benefit from the short porch in new Yankee Stadium. He could play first base if Mark Teixeira doesn't sign, or could play any of the outfield spots if they need to stick him out there.
Swisher also brings enthusiasm, friendliness and OK acting in commercials, but otherwise was a bust with the White Sox. He was, as Carl Skanberg puts it, an extra mascot, finding himself in the middle of such turning points as when some of the team "went blond" in their facial hair. Except for a few moments, his bat sagged. He lacked range in the outfield and at first base. He was more or less benched down the stretch as the Sox fought for a playoff spot and lost his job in the ALDS to minor-league journeyman Dewayne Wise. He also has to be paid; Swisher will get $5.3 million next year, $6.75 million in 2010 and $9 million in 2011. There's also a $10.25 million option for 2012 with a $1 million buyout.
Meanwhile, Kanekoa Texeira is not the "Teixeira" that Yankees fans might have been hoping for. He's a 22-year-old minor-league reliever from Hawaii. In 2008, he finished up strong at Class AA, and has 149-49 K/BB ratio with 118 hits, three homers allowed and 40 saves in 144 minor-league innings. Listed at at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, but has battled weight problems.
What the White Sox get: They rid themselves of Swisher's salary, and add Marquez, who is a 24-year-old sinkerball pitcher in the tradition of, GM Ken Williams hopes, Jon Garland. Marquez had a disappointing season in 2008, mostly at Class AAA, probably because of a shoulder strain. He won 15 games at Class AA in 2007, when his results (94 K, 44 BB in 154 IP) looked something like what Garland does. Based on this feature with MLB.com from March, Marquez seems like a confident chap. Scouts seem to like how his stuff will translate to the majors.
Wilson Betemit, a.k.a. "The New Juan Uribe", might cover the Sox at third base if Josh Fields fails. We are told he can play any infield position, just as long as you don't need any of them played all that well.
Nunez, 22, seemed to have a limited breakthrough in 2008 as a reliever after starting his career as a starter.
Who wins? The White Sox: Swisher probably will rebound some in 2009, but the White Sox definitely could find a better way to spend the money that's owed him in coming years. Joe Girardi will like Swisher's positivity and energy, just so long as he can hit north of .250 with 25 homers plus assorted walks. Otherwise, Yankee Skipper will become like Ozzie Guillen, who decided that cheerleading is not a necessary part of baseball, and will play someone else.