The Cleveland Indians brought home a native son on Sunday when Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported that they signed Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal with a fifth-year option for 2017. While committing up to $70 million to a 32-year-old outfielder can be considered risky, it was a move that the Indians and their ownership needed to make.
A commitment to winning was made by the Dolan family, the owners of the team. While the family has taken a lot of heat for their unwillingness to spend after purchasing the club from the spend-crazy Jacobs family in 1999, ownership really needed the image boost after attendance dropped to 13th in the American League in 2012.
While you could have questioned the direction of the team following the trade of Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati, there are two things to consider: 1. Choo has Scott Boras as his agent; and 2. Choo showed no signs of wanting to re-sign with the Tribe.
The Indians now have a top-flight prospect in Trevor Bauer, as well as a very good right fielder in Swisher. Not only that, but GM Chris Antonetti added Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw to the bullpen in the Shin-Soo Choo trade, while upgrading defensively in center field with Drew Stubbs.
Swisher provides a potential 3-4-5 in the Indians order of Asdrubal Cabrera, Swisher and Carlos Santana. All three are very good hitters, but more interesting is that all three are switch-hitters. The flexibility of the lineup creates havoc on late-game relief pitching choices by opposing managers and leads into a powerful right-handed hitter in Mark Reynolds, another new addition.
Swisher is a great signing because he strengthened an area of need after the trade of Choo. Swisher also provides a solid, middle-of-the-order bat, having posted a career .828 OPS over his nine-year career, while averaging 26 home runs per season. While he isn't going to fill the leadoff void that Choo left, his career .361 on-base percentage is a huge addition, on top of the power, to a lineup that struggled to score runs in 2012.
Swisher was born in Columbus, he attended THE Ohio State University and he has a track record of solid success. Considering the Arizona Diamondbacks gave Cody Ross $6 million in 2013 and $9.5 million in 2014 and 2015, landing the Ohio native at $14 million per season nearly looks like a steal.
For Indians fans, this offseason deserves an A+ grade to this point.
Antonetti has addressed several areas of need while developing an intriguing lineup that is capable of much more than the best lineup that Manny Acta could put on the field in 2012. Terry Francona has a great opportunity.