I can swear it was only about seven months ago when Kenny Williams, Ozzie Guillen, and the rest of the White Sox were telling us that Nick Swisher was everything that a White Sox player should be and would be in the future. Now here we are in the middle of November after a rather unimpressive season for The Dirty Thirty on the south side, and Nick will be making a new home in the Bronx wearing Yankees pinstripes.
I can't say I'm very happy about it. Sure, Swish had a down year here in Chicago, but you can't say it was his fault. From day one he was out of sorts as the Sox put him at the top of the order and had him playing in centerfield, neither of which comes naturally to Nick. He thrived as a lead-off hitter in April, but reality soon caught up to the kid that swings from his shoetops, and he was moved down in the order.
He never did recover, but although he only hit .219 with the team this season he did manage 24 homers, 69 runs driven in, and finished second on the team with 82 walks. Of course, he also finished second on the team in strikeouts and his .332 OBP isn't exactly what the Sox were hoping for. Still, I'd rather the Sox had moved Paul Konerko at this point and handed Swish the job at first base.
Offensively their numbers are rather similar -- Paulie's average was 20 points higher but he hit less homers and drove in less runs -- and on defense Nick is the superior first baseman. Not to mention that Nick is only 27 years old and has plenty of time to grow as a hitter, and he's locked up for three more seasons at about $8 million per. Konerko is 32 years old and has been on a decline since 2005, and there's no reason to believe he's going to get better next season -- well, unless steroids are legalized -- and he'll be getting worse to the tune of $24 million over the next two years.
Still, what's done is done so we may as well move on and look at what the Sox got in return. Wilson Betemit won't be anything but a utility infielder who could battle with Josh Fields and whoever the team brings in to play second base next season, but he's never really done anything in his career to make you think he'll be anything special. I don't know much about the two pitchers the Sox got in return -- Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez -- but from what I've read they're nothing special either, and will probably never be anything but middle relievers.
Of course, considering how horrible the Sox middle relief was in 2008, that may have been all Kenny Williams was looking for. Still, considering the price the Sox paid to get Swish from Oakland last season, the one year he gave the team, and the players they got in return for him, it's hard to say the Swisher experiment improved the ballclub. Though Kenny has surprised all of us before.