Somehow if I'm not mistaken the whole Natmosphere missed this: in last week's trade that had 1B/OF Nick Swisher going to the Yankees, one of the key prospects shipped off to Chicago with Wilson Betemit was none other than former Nationals farmhand and live-armed reliever Jhonny Nunez, whom we flipped to New York near the trade deadline this year for Alberto Gonzalez. And Nunez wasn't just some toss-in afterthought. In fact, John Manuel, editor of the preeminent baseball scouting journal Baseball America, says "Nunez, 22, has the best arm and upside of any prospect in the deal."
The full five-player deal was Betemit, Nunez, and 24-year-old minor-league sinkerballer Jeffrey Marquez for Swisher and 22-year-old Hawaiian right-handed pitcher Kanekoa Texeira.
Now, Nick Swisher goes to the Yankees as a risk. He's never going to the superstar that some people thought he'd be a few years back, and he's coming off a hugely disappointing season in Chicago, posting a .219 / .332 / .410 line with 25 homer in his age 27-season while shaving nearly 100 points off his OPS.
Still, if I could have had Nick Swisher this off-season (or at the deadline in July for that matter) for let's say Ronnie Belliard (who is older and not as versatile of a fielder, but a better hitter than Betemit) and Jhonny Nunez, dropping the other two pitchers out of the equation, I would have done that for sure. (I also would have traded Belliard and Alberto Gonzalez for Swisher for that matter.)
Swisher is a left-handed bat with power who walks a ton and could take advantage of the short-ish porch in right field in Nationals Park. He's also a very good defender at first base who can also capably man all three outfield spots and is locked up through 2011 for a very reasonable $20.05 million with a $10.25 million team option for 2012 with a $1 million buy-out.
Looking at his '08 stats, you notice right away that his 2008 stat line is dragged down by a .251 BABIP that could very well account for half the difference in his production from 2007. His walk rate, strikeout rate, and ISO power rates are all reasonably close to what he'd done in his very good '06-'07 seasons. I think this will be a very nice pick-up for the Yankees.
And of course he would have been a great fit for this team, given our need for a plan B at first base and upgrade for Austin Kearns.
I still don't love the idea of shipping off a young, live-armed guy like Nunez, but as a short-term / long-term acquisition, I much prefer a guy like Swisher to, say, Josh Willingham. Who knows, maybe Kenny Williams wouldn't do this deal--maybe he hates Ron Belliard or actually really valued Jeffery Marquez. But I still look at this and think, "darn, that could have been us."
If you want to read more about this trade and how Nunez fit in, check out Christina Kahrl's write up in Baseball Prospectus, John Manuel in Baseball America, or any of a bunch of links pulled together by Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors.