Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.– Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Nick Swisher’s departure from the Yankees had become a forgone conclusion, but the timing just before Christmas made the news like a lump coal left in the stocking of the team’s fan base. With Hal Steinbrenner playing the role of Scrooge this winter, Yankee fans haven’t had much to cheer about during the off season, and, unless the franchise’s infamous ghosts are inspired to pay the new Boss a visit, the days before Spring Training are likely to remain empty. Bah Humbug!
Yankees’ Productive Free Agent Departures (Hitters)
|Season before FA||Post Yankee Career|
Note: Includes free agents who left Yankees after having a season with an OPS+ of at least 110 in 400-plus plate appearances, with the exception of those who played in the strike-shortened season of 1981.
Ghost of Yankees’ Past
By allowing Swisher to take his switching hitting bat to Cleveland, the Yankees said good bye to arguably the most productive free agent to leave the Bronx. Since the start of the free agency era, only 11 players who posted an OPS+ of 110 or higher in at least 400 plate appearances have departed the team. However, almost half of those shown the door have come within the past five seasons. In 2008, the Yankees bid adieu to Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, and then in 2009, did the same to the World Series hero tandem of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Clearly, sentimentality has not been a driving force behind the team’s decision making.
Considering the recent history, fans probably shouldn’t be surprised that the Yankees allowed Swisher to walk, and, based on the subsequent performance of the players recently cast aside, perhaps they should be grateful as well? Maybe…and maybe not. Unlike the quartet mentioned above, all of whom were 34 years of age or older, Swisher will only be entering his age-32 season in 2013. Had he signed a four-year extension with the Yankees, his subsequent departure at age-35 would have been more in line with the team’s other cast offs.
Will the Yankees regret letting Swisher go? If the past examples of the team’s free agent cold shoulder hold to form, probably not. Although players like Mike Stanley remained productive for an extended period, and Reggie Jackson had two big seasons with the Angels, for the most part, players shunned from the Bronx weren’t able to maintain past production in their post-Yankee careers. Of course, even if Swisher begins a rapid decline, the team will still need to replace his lost production, which brings us to the Yankees’ present.
Ghost of Yankees’ Present
With the departure of several free agents who played a key role in the 2012 season, the Yankees’ offense will be challenged to match last year’s productivity. The team currently has several holes in the lineup, including at catcher, DH, and right-handed hitter outfielder. It’s still not too late for the Yankees to salvage their off season by filling some of the voids left behind, but, in order to do so, it could take an organizational change of heart with regard to the new philosophy of penny pinching. Otherwise, barring a blockbuster trade for Justin Upton or another promising young outfielder, stop gap solutions like Matt Diaz may be the best for which Yankee fans can hope.
Ghost of Yankees’ Future
If the Yankees seem to be operating in a miserly manner this season, just wait until 2014. As has been discussed in great detail (see here, here, and here), the team’s focus has seemingly transitioned from the scoreboard to the income statement, raising the specter that this year’s austerity will pale in comparison to the belt tightening that will take place over the next few years. Again, one losing season could send Steinbrenner back to his familial roots, but if the cost cutting takes firm hold, the team’s future will be dictated more by those playing in Scranton, Trenton, and Tampa than the Bronx.
Will Hal Steinbrenner wake up before the winter is over, realize there is still time to improve his team, and have Brian Cashman racing around trying to make up for lost time? That would certainly make for a much more Merry Christmas in the Bronx, but, even if not, Yankee fans, the unlikely “Tiny Tims” among baseball rooters this off season, still have a lot for which to be thankful.
God bless us, everyone.