When the A’s traded Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox back in 2007, I wasn’t quite sure what to think about the whole situation. The A’s signed Swisher, a fan favorite, to a five year extension during that year, so unloading him for a couple of prospects didn’t exactly make a happy camper.
Swisher, a key figure in Michael Lewis‘ best-selling book Moneyball, was a player many fans loved to watch night after night. He gave Oakland some pop near the middle of their lineup and he certainly knew how to play Oakland A’s baseball. He drew a ton of walks and he hit for power.
When the A’s traded Swisher for Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, and Fautino De Los Santos, I was a bit devastated. While the White Sox gave up top prospects Gonzalez and De Los Santos for Swisher and his long-locks of hair, I wasn’t entirely sold on the whole idea of Ryan Sweeney filling in the void left by Swisher in the outfield.
Long story short, though, Sweeney has steadily won me over. Not with his power, because he does not hit for power, but with his attitude and defensive skill set.
The A’s young outfielder performed well during his first year with Oakland, hitting .286/.350/.383 with 5 HR and 45 RBIs in 2008. He’s followed that 2008 season with some of the same steady production.
This year, however, was a bit different. The A’s went after two outfielders in Josh Willingham and David DeJesus this past offseason, and Sweeney’s playing time was essentially put on the back burner. The A’s gave DeJesus, a proven veteran, more playing time than Sweeney despite DeJesus’s terrible year offensively.
Sweeney played in 108 games this year, posting a .265/.346/.341 slash line while hitting a home run and driving in 25 runs. Sweeney’s slash line was a little more impressive than DeJesus’s line of .240/.323/.376, but Sweeney was a victim of Oakland’s aggressive offseason approach.
The team wanted to give Bob Geren the best talent, but everyone not named Josh Willingham failed to provide much of a spark offensively this season.
The A’s are expected to lose Josh Willingham and Coco Crisp this winter. With DeJesus already gone and Willingham and Crisp on their way out, guys like Sweeney have a shot at proving their worth next year.
Sweeney’s proven himself to me, and while he doesn’t hit for a whole lot of power, he does post a high batting average (usually) and plays exceptional defense. And for a team that committed 124 errors this year, strong defensively abilities will definitely help Sweeney’s chances for more playing time next season.