KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Erick Aybar and Nick Swisher are well into their 30s and, after trades, find themselves with the rebuilding Atlanta Braves.
As they prepare for another season, both switch-hitters are in the final years of their contracts and neither knows how long he will be around.
Aybar, a 32-year-old shortstop, came to the Braves along with two pitching prospects in a five-player deal that sent young shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, the only organization he had ever known.
“That’s a long time with one team, but that’s baseball. Anything can happen,” Aybar said Sunday. “I said thank you for all the years in Anaheim, but I’m on a new team so I’m going to come here and work every day, just like I did. If somebody takes you (in a trade), it’s for a good reason.”
The reason is to be Atlanta’s starting shortstop, at least for a while. That’s all Aybar needed to know when Braves general manager John Coppolella called him in November to tell him about the trade.
“I said thank you, packed everything and went back to the Dominican,” he said. “The first couple days here felt a little different but now I feel like I’ve been here for a while.”
It’s a little more complicated for Swisher, who was traded to the Braves late last summer, when they were 10 games under .500 and on their way to 95 losses.
“I was here for a month, but it was a tough month,” said the 35-year-old outfielder-first baseman. “More than anything, I think guys are trying to put that season behind us.”
With Freddie Freeman established as the Braves’ best player at first base and a crowded outfield, Swisher goes into the season as a pinch hitter.
“Right now I’d like to see him at first base,” manager Fred Gonzalez said. “I think he can play left field with no problem, but I’d like to see him get some ground balls at first base, see him move around the bag a little more.”
Swisher spent most of last year recovering from surgery performed on both knees in August of 2014. He played in 30 games for the Cleveland Indians and went on the disabled list in June. By the time he played again, he had been traded to Atlanta.
“It’s been fun being here but it’s been tough, too, because you want to win,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a while and I want to win right now. If you want to win, you’ve got to have some guys who have been there and done that. It’s hard getting a group of guys that have never been there to really understand what that’s like.”
Swisher has 185 postseason at-bats, 19 of them in the 2009 World Series with the New York Yankees. He isn’t likely to get more with the Braves, and he isn’t even certain to start the season in Atlanta.
“Anybody can get traded for prospects,” Swisher said. “We just saw our best pitcher last year (Shelby Miller) get traded for prospects. I think that’s baseball in general now, not just this team. It’s not trading big leaguer for big leaguer, it’s more, ‘Give me your prospects.’ That’s where the game’s changed a little bit.”
NOTES: Asked what RHP Julio Teheran had to do to get the opening day assignment, Gonzalez said: “He’s just got to survive.” . . . The pitching rotation for the early spring games will be probably be announced on Monday, the manager said. . . . The Braves will open their exhibition schedule Tuesday here against the Baltimore Orioles.