For all those who continue to second-guess the Michael Pineda trade now that Jose Campos is also hurt, I’d like to direct you to a nugget of information I was reminded of during a random discussion with colleague Jon Lane the other day that should, hopefully once and for all, prove that you can’t judge a trade in its initial aftermath.
I present to you Exhibit A: Nicholas Thompson Swisher.
Chances are, you love Nick Swisher. He certainly loves the fans (and playing in the Big Apple), and he’s been a key contributor to the Yankees since the day he put on pinstripes. And right now, the Chicago White Sox brass are probably still kicking themselves for both ends of the trades that both brought him to and sent him away from the Windy City.
But in 2008, it was Yankees fans who were kicking their own favorite team’s brass for the acquisition of what looked to be an overpaid underachiever.
Swisher was acquired that November for utility man Wilson Betemit and pitching prospects Jeffrey Marquez and Jhonny Nunez, and at the time, it looked like a shrewd salary dump on one end and a huge question mark on the other.
Sure, first base and right field were both open that off-season thanks to the free agency of Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, but with Xavier Nady looking ready to assume one of those spots, many wondered why the Yankees would trade a serviceable utility player and two prospects for a .250-hitting, semi-powerful tweener outfielder who was owed $22 million over the next four years – and why a team like Chicago would even give him up.
Indeed, those cried became louder once Mark Teixeira was signed later that winter, as Swisher was shunted into a “super-utility” role that would have seen him platoon with Nady in right, back up Melky Cabrera in center, and be insurance for Tex at first, all for the bargain price of $22 million owed.
That lasted all of about a week, as Swisher was inserted into the lineup full-time after Nady re-injured his elbow (and eventually had his second Tommy John surgery), and three years later, the rest is history.
In his first three years in pinstripes, Swisher hit .267 overall and averaged 150 games played, 27 home runs, 85 RBI, and 83 BB per season – and he’s poised to better most if not all of those numbers in 2012.
Not bad for a .250-hitting, semi-powerful, tweener outfielder/utility guy, eh?
Meanwhile, on the other side, Chicago got next to nothing from the entirety of that trade. Betemit played all of 20 games in 2009 before leaving as a free agent and is now in Baltimore (hence the genesis of this discussion), Nunez pitched 5 2/3 innings later that year but hasn’t seen the Majors since (and is now pitching in the Tampa Bay organization), and Marquez, who is now with the Mariners’ Triple-A team in Tacoma, gave them all of one inning in 2010 before being waived in 2011.
That all makes it a bad enough deal for Chicago, but what’s even worse is what they gave up to get Swisher.
For one year of Swish’s services – one where he hit a career-low .219 with 24 homers and 69 RBI, no less – the White Sox sent Fautino De Los Santos, Gio Gonzalez, and Ryan Sweeney to Oakland.
And yes, that’s the same De Los Santos who has become an important part of the A’s bullpen in the last season-plus, the same Gonzalez who has a career record of 42-33 with a 3.79 ERA and fetched a pair of top pitching prospects from Washington this offseason, and the same Sweeney who played in 439 games for the A’s from 2008-11 and is now batting .333 as an everyday player in Boston.
Think the White Sox wouldn’t love to have any of those three or Swisher back?
Of course they would. But when Kenny Williams made both of those moves, he thought he was acquiring a solid player and/or doing what was best for his team…just like Brian Cashman did when he traded a top prospect for an All-Star power pitcher.
So the next time you hear someone bashing the Pineda trade, tell them to simply look to right field – because if Cashman didn’t take that risk in 2009, the man who salutes the Bleacher Creatures every night during roll call would likely be somewhere else.