The signing is complete and there is no looking back now, Nick Swisher is an Indian and will be one through 2016 (possibly 2017). At this point everyone knows that he will be making $56M over those first four seasons with an option for the fifth. What we don't know is what he will produce.
The first thing to discuss is Swisher's age. He is going to be 32 in 2013 and playing in his tenth professional season. He has been incredibly durable over that time, averaging more than 150 games since 2006. He has produced at a pretty even level throughout that time, but did have a notable peak in 2009 and 2010 (age 28 and 29 seasons). It is likely that he will continue to slow as he ages, with his numbers dropping all over the board. Don't expect more than 20 home runs from Swisher again or a batting average over .275.
The second thing to look at is the Yankee effect. Simply by being on the Yankees, playing with that short right field and batting before or after some of the greatest hitters in baseball history can do a lot to help your stats. This is one of the reasons players can't be evaluated using regular statistics as these numbers won't correlate to other teams.
Since 2008 (the year before the Yankees bought a World Series), the Yankees have had five starting players leave the team and go on to play elsewhere. These players, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Hideki Matsui, all had significant trends in their numbers after leaving New York. While most of these players were older than Swisher and past their prime when they left, the fact that Cabrera is included and has the same trends shows that it isn't simply a matter of age.
Averaging together each players three final years with the Yankees and first three years away from New York, it is easy to see the difference. On an average, each player lost 22 RBI and 22 runs per season, the most important stats to note, because they have the smallest basis in actual talent. The extra base hits that have lowered have to do with the aging players and the park factors more than the actual lineup around them.
The most important individual player to look at is Melky Cabrera, because he is the exception where he actually improved as a hitter after leaving the Yankees. He has since played with Atlanta and Kansas City, most recently won a batting title (unofficially) with the Giants. The best seasons to compare are Cabrera's second full season in 2007 and his 2011 year with the Royals. Each year he played around 150 games, but in 2011 he hit ten more home runs and batted over .300 for the first time. Despite these amazing improvements he only knocked in 14 more runs (making him the only player to actually average more RBI after leaving the Yankees than before).
The Yankees buy players, use them up and throw them away. It has been their team strategy for more than a decade and looks only to be increasing in severity. They want to win the World Series in 2013, just like they do every year and if they thought Swisher could have helped them, they could have afforded to resign him. As a 30+ year old outfielder, Swisher's numbers will more likely resemble Abreu and Damon rather than Cabrera. It's too late to do anything, but play him, but everyone should temper their excitement now, or risk wanting the home town kid's head when next summer comes around. The combination of age and leaving the Yankees look to smack Swisher back to reality, so expect numbers closer to 20 home runs, 70 RBI and 50 runs scored. These are still good numbers compared to the average Indian in 2012, but simply don't seem worth more than $56 million.
Oh, yeah. Merry Swishmas.
Here are the numbers for those who want to check my math:
|Y-AVG||142||546||98||156||30||18||72||.285||.364||.449||Y-AVG||Three Year Average With Yankees|
|2010||145||539||81||146||36||8||51||.271||.355||.401||O-AVG||Three Year Average With Other Team|