Yanks Land Swisher To Play First

The Deal
With Jason Giambi’s contract coming to a merciful end, the Yankees were in the market for a new first baseman. They filled that need Thursday, acquiring Nick Swisher from the White Sox. They also landed righthander Kanekoa Texeira from Chicago, sending infielder Wilson Betemit and minor league righthanders Jeffrey Marquez and Jhonny Nunez to the White Sox in return.
The Young Players
Nunez, 22, has the best arm and upside of any prospect in the deal. The Yankees landed him earlier this year from the Nationals in the Alberto Gonzalez deal, and moved him from the rotation to the bullpen. He originally signed with the Dodgers in 2003 out of the Dominican Republic and came to the Nationals in a 2006 trade for Marlon Anderson. Nunez has a live arm and shows two plus pitches at times—a fastball that sits at 92-94 mph, touching 95, and a slider that he throws with some power that has inconsistent tilt. He throws from a low arm slot and was outstanding after the Yankees made what one club official termed “mechanical bad habits . . . he has much better balance now.” He was 2-8, 5.22 as a starter at high Class A Potomac, but as a reliever in the Double-A Eastern League, with Harrisburg and then Trenton, he went 1-0, 1.65 in 27 innings, striking out 34, and had 116 whiffs in 108 innings overall. He had three saves and seven strikeouts in five scoreless innings in the EL playoffs.

Marquez, 24, endured a difficult season, getting knocked around in Triple-A before being sent back to Trenton in the second half. A 2004 supplemental first-round pick, he entered 2008 as the Yankees’ No. 7 prospect but would have ranked in the 21-30 range this season had he remained a Yankee. Marquez made progress with his changeup and curve in 2007 but was back to relying almost exclusively on his 88-92 mph sinker (which can reach a bit higher) and adding a slider in ’08. He’s a defense-dependent, early-contact kind of pitcher who lacks a strikeout pitch. Overall, he was 8-8, 4.47 with just 51 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings. He finished strong, pitching well during Trenton’s Eastern League title run, and is pitching for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League (1-2, 4.50).

Texeira was a Carolina League all-star for high Class A Winston-Salem this season and had the best slider in the White Sox’s system. The 22-year-old Hawaii native was the No. 19 prospect in the CL this season. He’s just 6-foot, 210 pounds and went 6-3, 1.33 combined between Winston and Double-A Birmingham in 2008, with 60 strikeouts and 21 walks allowed in 61 innings overall. He spots his 90-91 mph fastball to both sides of the plate to set up his plus slider, which is both a groundball pitch and strikeout offering.

Quick Take
The key to the deal obviously is Swisher, 27, coming off the worst season of his five-year career in the majors. The highest-drafted member of Oakland’s 2002 “Moneyball” draft class, Swisher hit just .219/.332/.410 with 24 homers and 69 RBIs for the White Sox in 2008. He has 104 career homers and a career .244/.354/.451 line while playing mostly outfield (including center field in Chicago), but he’s a fine defender at first base. Swisher is owed $21.05 million over the next three seasons on a five-year deal he signed with the A’s prior to the 2007 season.

Betemit, 27, was the Braves’ top prospect in 2001-2002 but has yet to establish himself as more than a solid role player due to poor plate discipline. He played all four infield spots for the Yankees this year, hitting .265/.289/.429 with six home runs and an ugly 6-56 walk-strikeout ratio. His career ratio is 108-314 with a .260/.325/.437 line. He’s a switch-hitting option at third base for the White Sox if they do not re-sign free agent Joe Crede.

Swisher’s success in New York will be the key to the deal from New York’s standpoint; Texeira is redundant in a system full of similar fastball-slider relief pitchers, such as Anthony Claggett. The White Sox hope pitching coach Don Cooper and pitching coordinator Kirk Champion can work the same magic with Marquez that they have for the likes of Gavin Floyd and John Danks and pick up a potential power arm for the ’09 bullpen in Nunez.

" Trade Central 2008