White Sox trade Swisher to Yanks
South Siders ease outfield glut, receive Betemit, two prospects
CHICAGO -- The reasoning given in explaining Thursday's trade of Nick Swisher to the Yankees for infielder Wilson Betemit and right-handed Minor League pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez centered on two integral points made by White Sox general manager Ken Williams.
Although the White Sox fully believed the switch-hitting Swisher would bounce back from his dismal .219 showing during the lone year spent in Chicago and they appreciated the energy he brought to the team, the fit just wasn't good enough in the organization's collective estimation to continue on down this road. Then, there were the players Williams received in return for the versatile veteran, who has been penciled in at first base at the moment for the Yankees.
In Nunez, Williams believes he has a talented young hurler who sits not too far away from the Majors either as a starter or as a reliever. Nunez, 22, had a 1.65 ERA over 27 1/3 innings out of the bullpen last season between Harrisburg and then Trenton at the Double-A level, after being traded by the Nationals to the Yankees. Thursday's deal marked his third trade in just over two years.
Where Marquez is concerned, the 24-year-old will battle with Clayton Richard during Spring Training for the fifth starter in the rotation as a more immediate source of help.
"He absolutely can challenge for a spot," said Williams, during a conference call to address the trade. "We have a good read as to who he is and what he brings to the table. He shows a fastball at 90-94 mph, with a lot of sink.
"It's a similar style to [Jon] Garland in our ballpark. In addition, he has a slider and curveball with depth, and a power change to both right-handed and left-handed hitters. He also holds runners on well, something we have not been too successful with in the last couple of years, and he fields his position.
"We will get him with our plan of attack, as well as picking up [pitching coach Don] Cooper's acumen on peripheral things we found," Williams said. "It will help raise that ground-ball ratio and strikeout ratio."
Williams and some of his top scouts got this "good read" on Marquez by watching him extensively while he's been pitching for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League. Marquez produced a 6-7 record with a 4.69 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre last year, before suffering a minor posterior shoulder strain. He has a 43-40 record and 3.60 ERA over 108 games (104 starts) in five Minor League seasons. He was selected with a sandwich pick (41st overall) in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Reached by MLB.com in Arizona on Thursday evening, Marquez expressed excitement with both the new opportunity presented by joining the White Sox and the chance to play for manager Ozzie Guillen. Marquez also was energized when hearing Williams' comments concerning his outlook for the new acquisition and the joining the team's rotation.
"With all that has been going on today, it has been a real whirlwind. But hearing something like that coming from a guy like that ...," said Marquez, who had the best year of his career in 2007, when he went 15-9 with a 3.65 ERA for Double-A Trenton. "I just want to keep that in mind and perform to my ability.
"Over the past couple of years, I felt like I was big league ready. Unfortunately, I did not get that chance. Like I said, I'm excited now to be getting that window of opportunity."
"I've not been shy in saying a healthy Josh Fields goes in as a leading candidate for third base, but Wilson will push him," Williams said.
New York also acquired reliever Kanekoa Texeira, who posted a 3-1 record with a 0.93 ERA and 20 saves in 36 games for Class A Winston-Salem last season, and a 3-2 mark with a 2.01 ERA in 15 games with Double-A Birmingham. But Swisher was the reason for this trade, basically on both sides, but for different reasons.
Nearly 10 months to the day of Thursday's trade, the White Sox acquired the slugger from Oakland for a trio of top prospects in Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los Santos. Swisher launched 24 home runs, drove in 69 and scored 86 runs over 153 games, playing center field and assuming the leadoff responsibilities at the start of the 2008 season.
But Swisher lost his outright starting job to the combination of Dewayne Wise and Brian Anderson from Sept. 16 on, hitting a paltry .164 during the season's final month. Swisher, who is owed about $22 million over the next three years, showed the frustration of a competitor during his extended time on the bench, with the gregarious outfielder withdrawing slightly from the media.
Turning 28 on Nov. 25, the ultra-talented Swisher was not ready for a reserve role. With Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and Swisher basically working for three spots in the 2009 White Sox lineup, one from this quartet had to go.
Swisher's departure doesn't necessarily mean another veteran from this group won't follow before the Hot Stove is turned down to simmer, although Konerko and Thome have full no-trade protection.
"I'm not committing myself to anything right now," said Williams, when asked if he expected to have Dye, Thome and Konerko together in 2009. "If anything, it's simply about grinding away every day, exhausting all possibilities to be as good as we can be.
"When you have nothing but success your entire career, one blip on the radar screen, well it's similar for Swisher to Konerko [in 2003], in that it means very little," said Williams of Swisher's 2008 struggles. "I expect him to bounce back, and the people in New York will love him."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.