THT Round table: Nick Swisher to the White Sox

In a belated round table entry, the THT staff weighs in on the Swisher deal.

Oakland A’s trade Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox for Gio Gonzalez, Faustino de los Santos and Ryan Sweeney.

Matthew Carruth: I’m perplexed.

Why deal Swisher when you have him really cheap for the next five years? Is Chicago going to play him in center field? It’s a good return for Oakland, but I don’t think it’s a win for them given Swisher’s contract. They need one of those three to not only pan out, but pan out and be a solid contributor just to break even on the deal.

This does make the AL Central that much tougher and the AL West that much weaker (woo!).

Chris Constancio: It could look very good or bad for one team in three years depending on how some of these prospects develop, but as of this moment the talent exchange seems fair to me.

Gonzalez might be the best prospect of the bunch. He has made opposing hitters swing and miss at well above-average rates at each step of his career, and he responded to the challenge of moving to Double-A with his best season yet. There is no doubt that he has big league stuff, but there are a couple questions about his ability to become an above-average major league starting pitcher. First, his small size will continue to inspire questions about his durability. Gonzalez has thrown over 300 innings over the past two seasons, but those questions will accompany him until he makes 30 starts in a season with the A’s. Also (and more importantly in my opinion), Gonzalez needs to continue to improve his command and control to be a reliable and above-average starter at the major league level. Gonzalez walked nearly 12 percent of opposing batters during the final month of the 2007 season, and those kinds of streaks will cause trouble at the major league level.

Sweeney is a solid outfield prospect who will be useful this season. He’s gotten his fair share of hype over the past couple of years, but we’re still waiting for his power to arrive. He only managed to hit 10 home runs and 17 doubles despite playing his home games in one of the International League’s most hitter-friendly parks in 2007. For that reason, I’m not sure he’s going to be much more valuable than a lesser-known prospect like Aaron Cunningham (whom the A’s acquired last month).

Faustino de los Santos came out of nowhere to dominate Single-A hitters in 2007. There’s not much to say about him, except that he has a live fastball and everyone is waiting to see what he can do in 2008. The 20-year-old Dominican righthander doesn’t have a deep repertoire, and I think the A’s will be tempted to promote him aggressively to the major league bullpen by next year.

Lisa Gray: Personally I think that Billy Beane just likes trading. It’s not like he didn’t need to keep the one good hitter on his team. Seems he didn’t need to keep the one good pitcher neither. But hey youneverknow … maybe this will be an effing-A trade.

Steve Treder: I’m leaning toward Matthew’s reaction. Swisher would seem to be a guy they could rebuild around. It would make more sense to trade Eric Chavez.

On the other hand, there is wisdom in the notion that the more prospects you have, the better chance that something special will come out of them. My guess is that Beane wasn’t actively seeking to move Swisher, but the White Sox put this offer on the table and he decided, oh what the hell, this is too good to pass up. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done it, but one thing about Beane is that he prefers to err on the side of action.

Matthew Carruth:
Yeah, but isn’t Swisher special? A 27-year-old switch hitter with a good bat and at least decent glove who’s owed just $35 million over the next five years? What more could you really be looking for?

And the more I think about it, the move I’m loving this move for the White Sox. Not because I think they have any shot in 2008 (they don’t), but they have Swish for five years and he could become a park effect inflated monster in there. He puts up a couple 40 home run, 900 OPS seasons as a center field (crummy defense but he could scrape by in that small outfield) and then think what Williams could trade him for after the ’09 season with something like three years and $27 million left on his contract. It would be a lot more than two pitching prospects who haven’t even reached AAA and a bat who’s been all projection, no results.

Steve Treder: Sure, Matthew. As I said, I don’t think I would have made this deal.

But it’s worth acknowledging that the scenario you paint for Swisher in Chicago, while obviously possible, is the best case. So far he’s been a good hitter, but hardly a great one. In this day and age even the most anti-sabr GMs have a pretty decent handle on park effects.

Bryan Tsao: For me, as an A’s fan, this boils down to “In Billy I Trust.” I think it’s about a 50-50 deal for the reasons you guys mentioned. The prospects we get could be better (and cheaper) than Swisher by 2009, or they might flame out and Swisher could net even more prospects then. But part of being a small market team is not only do you have to accumulate good cheap players, but they also have to mature at roughly the same time for you to have a window. And if Beane was committed to rebuilding this offseason, it makes sense to go all the way and plan for that future.

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