The Broadway run of Nick Swisher ended Sunday when he signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, as first reported by Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Feinsand adds that the contract includes a vesting option for a fifth season that could bring the deal's value to $70 million, and easily so. Swisher turned 32 in November.
Ever since Swisher began heading toward free agency, the New York Yankees appeared ready to let him go — though Swisher reportedly had been hoping for $100 million deal, like the one Jayson Werth got two offseasons ago from the Nationals. Swisher put up worthy numbers for the Yanks over the past four seasons, averaging .268/.367/.483 for a 124 OPS adjusted for Yankee Stadium. He also averaged 26 home runs and 32 doubles. He hasn't hit well in 181 plate appearances during the postseason, but the value of playoffs stats is hard to gauge and they're an awful predictor of future results. Still, you wonder if that helped the Yankees — who consider it failure to not win the World Series — decide to let Swisher leave.
That, and Swisher's position and skills — a power-hitting corner outfielder — should be replaceable by a team with the Yankees' resources. The only problem — they'll need Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to raise their respective games a little. The Yanks have had a tough offseason — the injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, and the loss of Russell Martin to free agency — though Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner are due to come back in the outfield to join Granderson. And Mo Rivera is on time to return to the ninth inning. GM Brian Cashman will pull something together to hold off the Orioles and Blue Jays!
As for Cleveland, what's not to like?!
"Merry Swishmas!" — that's what they're calling the deal in Ohio. (Oy.) OK, the Tribe probably aren't on the verge of the World Series. And the city isn't quite as "happening" as New York. But playing for manager Terry Francona must be attractive for Swisher, whose dad, Steve Swisher, managed Francona at one time in the minors. Also a plus: returning to Ohio, which is near where he's from in West Virginia. And Swisher played college ball at Ohio State. Will Indians fans take to Swisher's rah-rah style like college folks at Columbus must have? Oh, probably. But he definitely addresses a need for Cleveland — to improve the club in the present while the constant re-building happens once more.
Here are some contract comparisons Feinsand made:
Swisher’s ... deal is the fifth-largest contract signed this winter, the third-biggest for a position player. Josh Hamilton, 31, inked a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels while 28-year-old B.J. Upton signed a five-year, $75 million pact with the Braves.
The only other deals larger than Swisher’s this offseason were Zack Greinke’s six-year, $147 million deal with the Angels and Anibal Sanchez’s five-year, $80 million contract with the Tigers.
And, if the Indians thing hasn't worked out by the end of the contract, Swisher probably will be worth something on the trade market in 2017. But that's the downside for the Indians. It's not a ton of money (which makes the Yankees decision a little curious), but it's a fair amount for a good player. The Indians aren't about to catch the Tigers, or the White Sox, or the Royals, in the AL Central. But at last we can say the Indians took some property from the Yankees (h/t @oldhossradbourn).
It's also like a reverse George Steinbrenner, when he went from Cleveland to New York in the 1970s!
As for Swisher's notorious personality (everyone gets a high-five all the time!), it can be fun for a while but also grating over the long haul. Though his teammates in New York were said to be over him, his behavior only worked against him once in his career — during an awful season with the White Sox. And that could have been Ozzie Guillen's fault as much as anyone's.
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