Under the city lights of New York, Nick Swisher's personality often shined brighter than his performance. The smiling, laughing right fielder was largely overshadowed by the bigger names in the Yankees' lineup, but this winter, the Indians gave Swisher the star treatment and wooed him to Cleveland with a four-year deal.
"Where we were going to be wanted and where we were going to be loved," Swisher said, explaining his decision to sign with the Indians.
Make no mistake, though, the Yankees are going to want him and would love to have him back. During his four years with the Yankees, Swisher was one of five primary run producers. Other middle-of-the-order hitters came and went, but Swisher, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson were the regulars.
Through that four-year stretch, Swisher's .367 on-base percentage was better than any of the other four. His .850 OPS was middle of the pack, behind Cano and Teixeira but better than Rodriguez and Granderson.
Swisher's best years weren't nearly as good as the others' -- he's the only one who never finished top 20 in MVP voting -- but Swisher was consistent, with an OPS+ never higher than 120 but never lower than 129.
"What he's done for us has been significant," general manager Brian Cashman said earlier this winter when it became clear the Yankees wouldn't re-sign Swisher. "Especially when you balance the lineup out, all these left-handers, it's nice to have (switch-hitters) Teixeira and Swisher. ... If we don't have that animal there, you're going to miss it big time, and it's hard to replace."
To begin replacing Swisher, the Yankees have re-signed right-fielder Ichiro Suzuki, yet another left-handed hitter who initially came to the Yankees as a midseason place holder late last year. He brings a speed element that Swisher lacked, but Ichiro is not a power hitter, and at 39 years old, he is a bit of a wild card with skills that seem to be diminishing. He doesn't bring Swisher's year-after-year dependability.
Eventually the Yankees will add more offense when they finally settle on a designated hitter, but as the winter progresses, it's becoming clear that overshadowed Swisher is going to be difficult fully to replace.