Cleveland Indians: What Nick Swisher Signing Means for the Terry Francona Era

Timothy Tripp@@tim_tripp22Contributor IIIDecember 26, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Nick Swisher #33 of the New York Yankees celebrates defeating the Baltimore Orioles in the bottom of the twelfth inning after a home run by Raul Ibanez #27 in  Game Three of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 10, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians re-energized their disgruntled fan base with the signing of former New York Yankees slugger Nick Swisher.

The Indians signed the switch-hitting Swisher to a 4-year, $56 million dollar deal, with a team option for a fifth year, which would push the contract up to an estimated $70 million deal (via Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer).

The Tribe still needs to look for another hitter to fill the DH spot and at least one more starting pitcher to make the offseason complete.

This move alone does not make the Indians an instant contender for the AL Central division, but it signals to the fan base that the team isn't interested in another complete rebuilding project.

It seems as if the Indians are looking for ways to be legitimate contenders for the playoffs in the short-term. But at the same time, they are aware that they need to be progressive in acquiring pieces for the future so that they can extend the window to where they can compete.

This might require trading core players a year or two early for young, major-league ready prospects, instead of single and double-A players—which they have been doing in the past.

New Indians' manager Terry Francona can be credited for this new line of thinking within the Indians' front office.

When they hired Francona, the front office must have known that he would not be interested in developing a roster full of young players for three or four years and if lucky, having a two-year window to compete for a World Series ring. They knew they would have to make some shrewd trades and be willing to spend for some free agents.

In addition to Swisher, they went out and signed former Baltimore Orioles right-handed slugger, Mark Reynolds, who despite his high strikeout rate, has put up consistent RBI and home run numbers throughout his career. He is also seen as an above-average defender at first base.

The Shin-Soo Choo trade was an obvious one that had to be done because there was no way the Indians would give him the type of money that he and his agent, Scott Boras, were demanding.

Frankly, he wasn't worth the money he was demanding and Nick Swisher is an overall upgrade with his consistent bat and leadership. Choo's arm in right field is top notch, but he regularly misplayed balls in right field last season.

The Indians should be credited for what they got in return for Choo—as they got a gold glove-caliber major league player in former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs, a potential future ace of the rotation in Trevor Bauer and two more solid pieces (Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw) to add to a now stacked bullpen.

The success of the 2013-2014 Cleveland Indians will still be dictated by the success of the starting rotation and if Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez are able to have bounce back years, which is a long shot, especially for Jimenez. Young pitchers like Zack McAllister and Carlos Carrasco must also show significant growth. Trevor Bauer must also be contributing at some point this season.

The Indians could still greatly improve their team with a couple additional trades, which could mean trading SS Asdrubal Cabrera and/or one or two of their bullpen pieces to add some more starting pitchers.

Who knows, maybe Francona can motivate Cabrera to stay in shape a whole season. If he can, there is no reason to trade one of the best all-around shortstops in the game when he is in shape.

The Dolans, owners of the Indians, had to rebuild the trust of their fan base by making moves that let the fans knew they were dead serious about putting a winning product on the field. So far it looks like they are taking the right steps to slowly rebuild their reputation.