Indulge me for a second and let’s imagine this actually happening. Some of the very first questions fans would be asking would be: who is going away in favor of Josh Hamilton and how can we afford him? Well, it’s simple. Nick Swisher will be a free agent and Curtis Granderson has a team option at the end of this season. What Swisher is asking for money wise will not earn him any favors with the New York Yankees unless he were to start putting up MVP-type numbers from here on out. Even then, overpaying one player sometimes can come back to bite teams. Granderson on the other hand may be offered an extension by the Yankees, but I just don’t see it happening if Hamilton’s name is thrown out there. Granderson’s salary is a little under Hamilton’s, but he doesn’t nearly have the same consistent production year in, year out that Josh does. So, with that said, could Hamilton be a Yankee next season?
Realistically, I don’t know how well it would go over, but I’m sure Brian Cashman would have to give it some thought. You have Swisher and Granderson, who are both older than Hamilton, that combined maybe hit for the numbers Hamilton does on a yearly basis and are a little under twice as expensive. In 2012, Hamilton’s salary was $13.75 million, Granderson’s was $10 million (the option for 2013 is $13M) and Swisher is earning $10.25 million this year. I’m not saying the money is the biggest issue here, but it’s definitely something that cannot be overshadowed. Heading into next year, we’ll hope for a healthy Brett Gardner and there’s the possibility of re-signing Ichiro Suzuki, which I believe we should do regardless. If Hamilton is to be signed, the Yankees still have enough to try and keep Ichiro, pay Robinson Cano‘s salary, and maybe even keep Raul Ibanez if needed. A potential 2013 outfield consisting of Gardner in left, Hamilton in center and Ichiro in right is actually pretty decent.
Looking at Hamilton’s career numbers, it’s no surprise that his name is always in the running for AL MVP or at least a batting title every year. In his career, Josh is a five-time All-Star, a two-time recipient of the Silver Slugger Award, has won AL MVP and also lead the American League in RBI and owns an AL batting championship. He’s been a 30 home run, 100 RBI player three times in his career and definitely has the potential to go well over that in the hitter’s park that is Yankee Stadium. His batting average is consistently above .290. In 2012, Josh is batting .287 with 40 home runs, 119 RBIs, scored 93 runs and a robust .938 OPS.
Comparing him to Granderson and Swisher, it’s almost a no-brainer that the Yankees should at least considering talking to Hamilton after the season. Granderson had a tremendous 2011, hitting 41 home runs with 119 RBIs on a .262 average. While this may show that Granderson has the potential to do what Hamilton does, it was the only time Granderson had over 100 RBI in a season, and he’s been playing longer than Josh. Also, Granderson has struck out 168 times in 2012 whereas in 2011, he K’d 169 times. His on base percentage is also down from last year. Granderson’s presence in the 2012 line-up has been feared yes, but in the same regards, his overall numbers (hits, runs scored, etc.) are all down from last year and the only stat that will surpass anything from last year are his strikeouts. He is currently mired in a dismal slump despite Sunday’s 3-for-3 performance.
For Swisher, he’s always had a consistent, average bat in the line-up. He’s never provided anything too flashy, but at the same time, you really don’t need that each day from his spot in the line-up. Like Granderson, some of Swisher’s totals are down from last year. He’s also at his strikeout total of last year at 125 and there’s still a few weeks left of baseball. Swisher had a monster hot streak a few weeks back that really helped his numbers this season and at one point, he was batting .278. He’s currently down to .255 as he’s cooled off, but his home run (20) and RBI (78) production has been somewhat solid for the Yankees.
Defensively for the three, they don’t make many errors. Granderson has committed zero errors this season. Swisher’s versatility between right field and first base has been quite beneficial in some regards due to Mark Teixeira‘s absence. In 2012, Swisher has committed one error at first and three in right field. Hamilton has played all three outfield positions this season (though only twice in right field) and has only committed five errors between the three spots. These are guys who also have a somewhat decent range from their respective positions. Here is a breakdown of their range factors in 2012:
- Hamilton’s range: Center field (2.49), Left Field (1.89)
- Granderson’s range: Center field (2.26)
- Swisher’s range: Right field (2.13)
So while Hamilton’s range in left may not be perfect, his overall difference between the two is only .04 less than Granderson’s at 2.22. Let’s take a quick look at UZR, or ultimate zone rating between the three in 2012:
- Hamilton: -3.6 (3.4 in 2011)
- Granderson: -17.2 (-5.1 in 2011)
- Swisher: 2.5 (8.0 in 2011)
For Hamilton, his range is obviously down from last year, but why? His error runs, or ErrR, is down this season to -1.3, which is not only the lowest in his career, but also is what hampers his UZR. What hinders Granderson is the fact that he hasn’t been as fast in previous years and that Gardner has been gone for the majority of 2012. Granderson’s skills have been diminishing and it’s been quite apparent that having Gardner out has hurt him. Swisher has been solid in the field, but the fact that his UZR has gone down in right field by 5.5 is rather large. So overall defensively, the only real advantage Swisher has over Hamilton is the fact that Nick also can play first.
So, where would Hamilton bat in the lineup? Personally, how I think Joe Girardi should write this line-up isn’t much different from what it is now. Hypothetically, this is what I think it could be: Ichiro, Derek Jeter, Hamilton, Cano, Tex, Alex Rodriguez, DH (Ibanez?), Russell Martin, and then Gardner. I’ve always liked Jeter batting second and I think in this line-up it has to work as he usually gets on base. If Ichiro can get on, next you have Jeter and then Hamilton’s bat to follow; from there on out, there really are no wrong moves in this hypothetical lineup. The Yankees would have three pure contact hitters back-to-back-to-back in Gardner, Ichiro and Jeter and then comes the power.
So when it’s all said and done, is Hamilton a Yankee in 2013? It’s hard to say. While either Granderson, Swisher or both will be gone, it is possible one or the both of them receive an extension. However, based not only on their defense, but overall offensive production, neither Granderson nor Swisher warrant an extension if it means the Yanks could ink Hamilton.