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November 9, 2012

Rumor Roundup

Friday, November 9

by Daniel Rathman

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Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and the Blue Jays shuffling relievers on and off their 40-man roster. Jeremy Jeffress, acquired from the Royals for cash considerations on Thursday, is the newest member of the organization, and Scott Maine, claimed off waivers from the Indians on Oct. 31, is back in the unemployment line. Here’s a look at what else is afoot heading into the weekend:

Nick Swisher a hot commodity in crowded outfield market
Teams looking for outfield help have plenty of options to choose from in the free-agent class of 2012, and according to Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand, those unwilling to meet Josh Hamilton’s lofty asking price have set their sights on Swisher. The 31-year-old has appeared in at least 148 games in each of the past seven seasons, and he has produced at least 3.0 WARP in six of them, showing remarkable consistency and durability, two traits that are likely to serve him well this offseason.

A disciplined hitter with 25-homer power, Swisher’s output was not a product of Yankee Stadium’s short porch; he hit .283/.370/.464 in the Bronx and .261/.359/.482 away from it last season. Swisher is also one of only four switch-hitting outfielders—along with Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Shane Victorino—on the market who played regularly in 2012, and his pop and ability to play first base in a pinch set him apart from the trio. 

But all of those skills come with a steep price tag, which—if a late-August report by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman is to be believed—could be in the range of Jayson Werth’s seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals. Assuming a generous cost of $6 million per win, Swisher would need to maintain a 3.0-win pace over the life of the hitch to warrant his paychecks. With his strikeout rate trending upward (22.6 percent in 2012, his worst since 2008) and his walk rate slowly diminishing (12.3 percent, his second-worst since 2006), that’s probably an unrealistic expectation, and even a sizzling market figures to force Swisher’s agent, Dan Lozano, to back off the Werth comparison.

Feinsand tweeted that five teams have expressed “serious interest” in Swisher, specifically naming the Rangers, who may not have the resources to retain Hamilton, and the Mariners, who are expected to be in the running for the biggest fish. A separate rumor from Thursday’s mill might reveal a third member of the Swisher quintet…

Phillies focusing on free-agent, not trade, solutions
After adding young talent in a pair of deadline deals that shipped Victorino to Los Angeles and Hunter Pence to San Francisco, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is inclined to hold on to his controllable assets, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb. That strategy puts possible trade targets, such as the Indians’ Shin-Soo Choo and the Diamondbacks’ Justin Upton, out of reach, which means that Amaro will be scouring the free-agent listings for outfield help.

Swisher could be a fit in either outfield corner, spots currently occupied by Domonic Brown and 2012 minor-league standout Darin Ruf, but the Phillies’ more pressing need is in center field, where the only internal options are John Mayberry and Nate Schierholtz. Gelb suggests that Michael Bourn, Pagan, and B.J. Upton will all make their way onto Amaro’s radar, but the general manager admitted that his budget is “not unlimited,” and the Phillies must also improve at third base and in the bullpen. If Philadelphia’s payroll stays around $165-170 million, Amaro has $20-25 million to dole out, with the exact figure depending on whether he chooses to non-tender Schierholtz.

Cubs among teams bidding for Hyun-Jin Ryu
Finally, Thursday marked the end of the posting window for Korean southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune heard that the Cubs are among the teams that submitted an offer to the Hanwha Eagles. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are no strangers to the posting process for clients represented by Scott Boras—*cough* Daisuke Matsuzaka *cough*—and while the cost of importing Ryu isn’t likely to approach the $51.1 million Epstein’s Red Sox paid for Dice-K’s rights, Rogers suggests that he “compares favorably” to Orioles 2012 signee Wei-Yin Chen.

Exactly how much competition the Cubs are facing for Ryu's rights is uncertain, but Rangers beat writers Evan Grant and Jeff Wilson believe that, a year after bringing Yu Darvish over from Japan, general manager Jon Daniels is looking to the Far East for rotation help again. The deadline to submit bids was 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, and Hanwha now has four days to decide whether to accept the top offer. To pass the time, here’s video of Ryu fanning 13 batters in a start this past April. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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