Every time the Chicago White Sox face Nick Swisher, my head is ready to explode.
It’s not personal. I think Swisher is a great guy and at different points in his career, was a solid baseball player.
But I can’t help but think what would have been if he had never been apart of the White Sox.
In the offseason of 2007, the White Sox were coming off of a 72 win season and were two years removed from winning a World Series.
At that time, center field was a revolving door that included Brian Anderson and then top prospect Jerry Owens. Scott Podsednik was also cut loose by the White Sox after a down year filled with injury leaving a void in left field.
This would open the door for then general manager Kenny Williams to swing a trade with the Oakland Athletics for the services of Swisher. It would cost the White Sox three minor leaguers.
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The acquisition of those three players weren’t news at all in comparison to the addition of Swisher.
In three seasons with the A’s, Swisher built a reputation as a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate, an eye that helped him lead the American League in on-base percentage and an infectious personality that any clubhouse would kill to have.
In the 2008 season, none of that came to fruition.
Swisher hit just .219 with 24 home runs, 69 RBI and a .743 OPS, all far below the totals of the previous two seasons with the A’s. There was also the crazy idea that he could be the team’s leadoff hitter and hold up defensively in center field. Needless to say, neither worked out well.
Most of all, his personality did not mesh well in then manager Ozzie Guillen‘s clubhouse. With an environment ran by even-keeled veterans like Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and Mark Buehrle, his attempts at humor were viewed as more annoying than funny.
And then there was Quentin.
After being in and out of the minors and often injured with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Quentin overshadowed Swisher by finishing the season with a .288 average with 36 home runs, 100 RBI and 96 runs scored. And those numbers are even more impressive when you take into account that he missed the final month of the season with a wrist injury.
In fact Swisher was so bad, the White Sox swung a trade for a washed-up Ken Griffey Jr. to take over for him. Watching the future Hall of Famer struggle in center field and display his warning track power a couple times a week was hard to watch.
The White Sox went on to win 89 games and the AL Central division crown before being eliminated in four games by the Tampa Bay Rays during the ALDS.
Swisher would only spend one year in Chicago as he was traded to the Yankees in the offseason.
Even more than what Swisher was (or wasn’t) for the White Sox, the biggest hurt was moving Gio Gonzalez to get him.
May 8, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
While Gonzalez has always shown the ability to pile up strikeouts, control was the big issue.
In his four season with the A’s, he piled up walks. But in 2010 he began to see success. The following year, despite leading the league in walks, he made his first all-star team.
In 2012 he was traded to the Washington Nationals and finished third in the NL in Cy Young voting behind a 21-8 record and a 2.89 ERA. From 2010-2014, Gonzalez was 73-47 with a 3.22 ERA.
In that same time frame of pitchers who have spent any time with the White Sox since 2010, only Mark Buehrle is anywhere close to Gonzalez in wins. He has won 64 games between the White Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Fast forward to today and you can’t help but notice how nice the White Sox rotation would look with Gonzalez in the fold. If he never gets traded, maybe there is never a Hector Noesi. Maybe there is no five-year contract for John Danks.
Sweeney has made a career out of being a reserve outfielder with strong defense. However with the A’s in 2009, he put together a strong season as an everyday player hitting .293 with 31 doubles. In nine seasons, he has played for the White Sox, A’s Red Sox and Cubs.
De Los Santos has made just 40 relief appearances in the majors, the last of which came in 2012. Once a top prospect with the White Sox, De Los Santos has been out of baseball since 2013.
Swisher went on to have four strong seasons with the Yankees but has struggled since joining the Cleveland Indians in 2013.
Gonzalez is in his fourth season with the Nationals and has established himself as one of the better left-handed pitchers all of baseball.
I can’t help but wonder, what would have been.