Giants, Swisher would be nice match
Yankees could be shopping outfielder after signing Teixeira
SAN FRANCISCO -- Wield the process-of-elimination pen long enough across the list of hitters who have been linked to the Giants as potential trade or free-agency acquisitions, and the only name that emerges without an "X" marked through it is Nick Swisher.Everybody else eliminates or casts doubts upon himself for one reason or another. Manny Ramirez is probably too expensive and might not fit in the clubhouse, though he certainly would blend into the batting order. Adrian Beltre, Hank Blalock and Xavier Nady become eligible for free agency after this season -- making them radioactive to Giants general manager Brian Sabean, who refuses to acquire players entering their "walk" year. Jorge Cantu, Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion are considered defensive liabilities. Garrett Atkins' comfort away from Coors Field is questionable (he's hitting .337 lifetime at home and .260 on the road, including .241 at AT&T Park). Joe Crede's back is suspect. Ty Wigginton never has been confirmed as someone the Giants want, and if they did, Sabean probably would have signed him by now. Bobby Abreu has the punch the Giants need, but he plays right field, so adding him to an already full outfield would create a glut that might be difficult to solve. Besides, he bats left-handed, which isn't always a good thing at AT&T Park. Then there's Swisher, who's mostly free from the shortcomings of the aforementioned. Whether the Giants actually can obtain Swisher from the Yankees is, of course, debatable. Tampering rules prevent the Giants from commenting on him, although they'd seem to be a match. The Yankees are known to have been shopping Nady and Swisher since signing Mark Teixeira late last month. An industry source told MLB.com on Thursday that, of the two, New York would prefer to trade Nady, because he's an impending free agent and now plays mostly outfield -- unlike the contractually defined, handier Swisher. But if the Giants can pry Swisher from the Yankees, who need starting pitching, he'd probably prove useful. He has the power the Giants need, totaling 104 home runs in slightly more than four seasons. He amassed a career-high 35 homers in 2006, and even last year, he homered 24 times despite batting .219 for the Chicago White Sox, who traded him to New York on Nov. 18.
Swisher's 2008 performance prompted skepticism, but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen defended him at last month's Winter Meetings. The Chicago Tribune quoted Guillen as saying, "I take the blame for Nick Swisher. We put Nick Swisher on the spot. He wasn't a center fielder and he wasn't a leadoff hitter, and this kid showed up every day and did his best for us. Unfortunately, stuff didn't work out for him, and I will take the responsibility for playing this guy in the wrong position and the wrong spot in the lineup."Swisher has batted fourth 11 times in his career and fifth in 17 games, but his 357 plate appearances batting third indicate that he could bolster the middle of the order, where the Giants need help. Having averaged 93 walks per year from 2006-08, Swisher also possesses the plate discipline many Giants lack. As a switch-hitter who can play first base and all three outfield spots, Swisher's versatile, a quality that gives manager Bruce Bochy the personnel flexibility he values. With the Giants, Swisher likely would occupy first, leaving third base for Pablo Sandoval. At 28, Swisher's approaching what should be his peak years. He's also relatively affordable. Swisher's owed approximately $20 million over the next three seasons, a sizable yet not budget-breaking amount. Moreover, he wouldn't block the ascent of any Giants prospects. Angel Villalona, the budding first baseman, is only 18 and needs two, perhaps three more years of seasoning. Finally, Swisher's intangible assets are considerable. He still owns a home in Danville, Calif., a 45-minute drive from San Francisco, so he'd likely welcome a return to the Bay Area, where he began his career with Oakland. He'd enliven an already positive Giants clubhouse with his upbeat, somewhat brash demeanor, which would complement the genial yet quiet nature of veterans like Randy Winn or the hushed professionalism of Bengie Molina. But just because deals make apparent sense doesn't mean they'll happen.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.