The Cleveland Indians made a bold, wise move in their aggressive offseason on Sunday by signing former New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher. An Ohio native, Swisher is just the type of player the franchise needs—both on the diamond and in the clubhouse—to improve in 2013.
If there was any doubt that the animated Swisher was excited about a homecoming with the Indians, he put that to rest on his official Twitter page this morning:
Wow! What a crazy few weeks. Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I’m coming home! #RollTribe— Nick Swisher (@NickSwisher) December 23, 2012
Swisher should be ecstatic, with a four-year, $56 million contract inked. As far as what Swisher brings in terms of on-field production, though, his bat will be a huge asset to the Cleveland lineup.
This past season, he hit .272 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI, which gives the Indians some much-needed power. The team ranked 25th in the MLB in 2012 with just 135 home runs and averaged just over four runs per game.
GM Chris Antonetti continues to build a promising outfield, and Swisher fits in nicely alongside the recently-acquired LF Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley. In right field, Swisher fills the void left by Shin-Soo Choo, who was a part of the three-team trade to acquire Stubbs that involved nine players, as reported by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Stubbs is dangerous on the basepaths but strikes out a ton and struggles at the dish. His value reflects itself as a fielder; that makes the acquisition of Swisher that much more critical.
Swisher is a proven winner as a part of the Yankees' 2009 World Series team. He was also a 2010 All-Star selection, which is particularly impressive since Swisher stood out on such a star-studded Bronx Bombers squad.
Cleveland has been among the most maligned American sports cities in the history of mankind. The fans are begging for a winner. With at least 93 losses in three of the past four years (h/t ESPN), the Indians have been one of the key parts of the city's tough luck in major sports.
Perhaps the most important aspect Swisher brings is his colorful personality, which even translated well in the notoriously strict, anti-facial hair Yankees.
Johnny Damon praised Swisher's impact back in the championship-winning 2009 campaign in a piece by Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News:
When I came over, I mean, this place was kinda dead, you know? I almost had to watch everything I said. I didn't want to upset anyone. But having characters in here [like Swisher] has helped everyone. It's kind of like how Kevin Millar helped me in Boston - we changed the way things were in Boston, but it took another guy to put it full throttle.
It's going to take several Indians to pull the throttle on a turnaround in Cleveland, but Swisher figures to be one of the biggest contributors to the cause.
At age 32 and with an option for a fifth year on his deal, it appears Swisher will finish his career back home. He is an ideal veteran presence and should have several good years to offer to the rebuilding effort in Cleveland that will hopefully result in October excitement for the much-maligned franchise.