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Swisher Deal Has Big Trickle-Down Effect

The Yankees' move to add first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher from the White Sox late last week made news, but it didn't garner the attention that signing a primo first baseman, say, Mark Teixeira, would have. Well, it should have made those ripples, because it actually signifies something equally significant: The Yankees won't sign Teixeira, leaving the Nationals, Orioles, Angels, Red Sox, Giants and any other team that wants to come up with $20+ million per year to chase after him.

How can I say that so confidently? Well, those messages are slipping out of the Bronx like rats scurrying for a train station in, well, the Bronx. We've got it on the good authority of Dave himself, as well as the word of practically any baseball writer you want to pick in New York. You want Journal News Yankees beat man Peter Abraham? Well, here's Journal News beat man Peter Abraham. You want Newsday's Ken Davidoff? Here's Ken Davidoff. The New York Post's Joel Sherman is your guy? Don't worry, Sherman's on the "No-Tex in New York" bandwagon, too.

The one big believer that the Yankees will still go after Teixeira is ESPN's Keith Law, and while Law is often dead-on with his predictions, I'll stick with the numbers and Dave in betting that New York really is focusing all its significant resources on adding as much starting pitching as possible.

Just for a refresher, here's what Dave said about the Yankees, re: Teixeira over at Nationals Journal:

... someone familiar with the Yankees' offseason strategy told me they were out on Teixeira, and I didn't believe it, figuring it was mere posturing. A few hours later, they announced the Swisher deal. Swisher is the perfect solution for them, because in addition to first base he also plays all three outfield positions, which means they can give Jorge Posada some occasional playing time at first base. You can't do that with Teixiera.

And believe it or not, the Yankees' resources are not unlimited. They will probably spend in excess of $200 million on two pitchers - my guess is C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett - but they can't do that and give another $200 million to Teixeira.

That's a big loss of leverage for Teixeira, assuming the early predictions are right. While that might have Nationals and Orioles fans getting excited -- after all, the two local nines are expected to be among the primary bidders for the Severna Park native's services -- there's a bigger impact of the Swisher deal, and that's on the team that dealt him: It could signal the end of a free-spending big budget on Chicago's South Side.

Sure, that's a quick-snap judgment on long-term plans for a franchise that seems to undergo bi-annual makeovers, but consider the money that the White Sox have cleared off their books this winter just by dealing Swisher and watching free agents Orlando Cabrera (shortstop) and Ken Griffey Jr. (outfield, midfield acquisition) walk away:

Nick Swisher -- 2008 salary: $3.6 million
Orlando Cabrera -- 2008 salary: $10 million
Ken Griffey Jr. -- 2008 salary: $8.3 million

That's a grand total of roughly $22 million off the books, which would give the White Sox plenty of room to add a new shortstop or another pitcher. But when you look at the White Sox roster -- and the fact that they received infielder Wilson Betemit from New York in the deal, another infielder doesn't seem likely (Alexei Ramirez, the incumbent second baseman, could move to short to accommodate Betemit at second, unless Jayson Nix or Chris Getz make a run at either the second base or shortstop job in spring training).

Believe it or not, the White Sox could stockpile even more money before they start spending some of it, too. According to Chicago Tribune writer Mark Gonzales, the Southsiders are likely to trade away another pricey veteran from the vaunted middle of their lineup during the current offseason makeover. That would be either first baseman Paul Konerko (2008 salary: $12 million), designated hitter Jim Thome ($15.7 million) or outfielder Jermaine Dye ($9.5 million), which would push their offseason scrimping and saving up to anywhere from $31.5 million to $37.5 million. That's a lot of dough per season, depending on what they get back for whichever slugger they dealt away.

Before you say the White Sox are just saving up for a surprise run at CC Sabathia or another starter, take a gander at their rotation. While GM Ken Williams would love to offload Javier Vasquez and his $11.5 million salary or Jose Contreras and his $10 million salary, the White Sox still have three definite rotation spots locked down outside of those two. Mark Buehrle will be the team's Opening Day starter, Gavin Floyd proved a crucial asset in 2008 and John Danks, despite his 12-8 record, will definitely get another run out. Add to that Clayton Richard, who could earn a rotation spot with a strong spring training (particularly if Vasquez or Contreras are dealt), and you've already got plenty of pitchers fighting for five spots.

That's not saying that Williams won't make a surprise push for A.J. Burnett or Derek Lowe (or, possibly, even Sabathia), but that seems a bit unlikely.

So what are the White Sox going to do with the extra cash? That's anyone's guess. If they trade away any of the middle of their lineup, they'll probably want to add one established bat. Outside of that, it would seem they'd be happy to stockpile the cash.

Are the Nick Swisher move -- and any subsequent move -- being pushed on Williams by the current economic climate? Are the White Sox the first "big market" team to feel the pinch of the credit crunch in Major League Baseball? Those are questions which only Williams can answer. It'll be interesting to see, depending on the team Chicago trots out in April, if it looks like they are, or whether there's a much bigger plan, still obscure to the public eye, that Williams has in mind.

By Cameron Smith  |  November 15, 2008; 9:00 PM ET
Categories:  White Sox , Yankees  
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Next: Is CC Really the Answer??


Back in the pre-sign-on days, I would have posted under the phony name "O-Dog" with a short "What about me?" in answer to your question about where will the ChiSox spend their money. The idea would be to shift Ramirez to SS. Betemit can be given a shot to beat out Josh Fields at 3d if the White Sox do not sign an FA, and can back up all infield positions if he is not a starter.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 16, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Sweet! Not only does this blog simply regurgitate day-old stories scooped by other news outlets, but now it blogs about other WP blogs!

"Just for a refresher, here's what Dave said about the Yankees, re: Teixeira over at Nationals Journal"

Posted by: jctichen | November 17, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

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