This morning brought about the news that former all-star Nick Swisher would be returning to his adopted home state as a member of the Cleveland Indians. Swisher's deal with the Indians is said to be a four year pact at $56 million, with an fifth year option at $14 million. Born right on the West Virginia/Ohio border in Parkersburg, WV, Swisher went on to stardom at The Ohio State University and was a popularized as the first selection in the 2002 Athletics' "Moneyball" draft. Following his tenures with the A's and White Sox, Swisher went on to have some of his best seasons as a member of the Yankees, including a 2010 campaign that made him a first time All-Star. Now, after several productive seasons in the limelight of New York, Swisher will be taking his talents to the much more reserved city of Cleveland.

            Swisher undoubtedly has an infectious passion for the game and a personality seemingly made for New York. Although Cleveland will certainly provide a different atmosphere than the Big Apple, for now, we will just focus on the tangible aspects of Swisher's game. With the exception of his poor 2008 season with the White Sox, Swisher has been a model of consistency. Excluding his rookie season and that aforementioned '08 campaign, Swisher has had at least a 22 home runs (never more than 29), a 120 OPS+ (never higher than 129), and a .359 OBP (never higher than .381) . This remarkable steadiness displayed by Swisher gives a good barometer of what his production should look like in the coming seasons, even though his numbers should expect a decline from leaving Yankee Stadium's short RF porch. Coincidentally or not, Swisher had his best season (career high 3.5 WAR) this past year with a 126 OPS+, 24 home runs, 93 RBI, and a .272/.364/.473 triple slash line. On the other side of the ball, Swisher is presumed to play RF, after incumbent Shin-Soo Choo was traded to the Reds last week. Swisher spent most of last season in the Bronx as the starting RF and put up positive Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) numbers and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). These numbers are not one year flukes either, because Swisher's defensive ratings have hovered around average (0 runs saved/above average) for much of his career. Additionally, Swisher has seen sporadic time at first base and his defensive ratings (career 2 DRS, .994 fielding %) suggest he could play could be solid defensively if he loses some of his outfield range. All told, Swisher's consistency, positional versatility and offensive abilities make this contract a reasonable one for the Indians. 

            One further note in regards to Swisher's on-field performance has been his production, or lack there of, in the postseason. A career .169 hitter with 46 K's, Swisher's playoff ineptitude reached its peak this past postseason. In eight games, Swisher batted .167, struck out 10 times, and had just two runs batted in. This caused Swisher to be booed repeatedly by the Yankee faithful, foreshadowing Swisher's final days in pinstripes. Additionally, although there is not a huge sample size, his 46 games and 181 plate appearances are enough to say that Swisher has just flat out under-produced in October. Is it fair to judge a player by a couple of games after producing for six months? I would argue no, but for some, playoff performances carry extra weight in determining a player's abilities; this despite the fact that that player might have been the reason for the team making the playoffs in the first place. Regardless, Swisher's much publicized postseason struggles clearly did not sway the Indians into committing to him for the next four seasons.

            Now that we know Swisher the player, what does this signing mean for the Indians? In my opinion, as good as Swisher is, it is a move that does not make much sense from a organizational standpoint. First off, Swisher essentially replaces Choo (3.5 WAR for Swisher, 3.1 WAR for Choo) and could even be a downgrade if Swisher's bat slows from age and fails to transition for homer-friendly Yankee Stadium. If the Indians were a 68 win team with Choo, why should the team with Swisher's arrival be any different? As I said with the Myers-Shields swap, it does not pay to be mediocre. I do not comprehend when teams make these irresponsible decisions when resources could be more effectively allocated, such as filling a need rather than adding a want. For instance, the $56 million spent on Swisher could have landed Edwin Jackson, who had just signed a 4 year, $52 million deal with the Cubs. While the Tribe's offense was around league average, the Indian's pitching staff was absolutely abysmal, having the worst ERA, ERA+, and WHIP in the American League. Signing Jackson could have definitely improved a staff as bad as this, providing invaluable innings instead of throwing the likes of Josh Tomlin (6.36 ERA) and Jeanmar Gomez (5.96 ERA) every fifth day. In addition, the Indians farm system lacks much talent other than stud shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-hander Trevor Bauer; barring a huge influx of talent, the Indians should not see much in the ways of winnings for several more seasons.  Thus, by the time Swisher's contract is complete, what will the Tribe have to show for it? Perhaps some added attendance from seeing a home-state kid in the purple and red, but in terms of wins and losses, it more than likely that it will be much of the same. Simply put, this financially ties up a team that just will not be competing in the near future. Once again, Swisher is a very good player and very much worthy of his newly minted  contract. However, this poor allocation of resources is just another reminder of why the Indians are the Indians.  


                There is a reason why Joey Votto collected just 56 runs batted in in 111 games in 2012.  That reason is the guys hitting in front of him and not getting on base.  The Reds had a league worst .254 OBP from their leadoff hitters in 2012.  That problem was quickly solved in a deal that centered around outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.  He was acquired, along with infielder Jason Donald and $3.5 million, from the Cleveland Indians in a trade that involved three teams and nine players overall.  The Indians receive outfielder Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati and pitchers Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from the Diamondbacks.  Arizona gets minor league shortstop Didi Gregorius, lefthander Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson from Cleveland

                With few weaknesses remaining on the major league club, the Reds have finally found their guy to bat leadoff.  Shin Soo Choo has consistently shown the ability to get on base at a high level throughout his career with a .381 career OBP.  After being injured in 2011, he came back strong in 2012 with a .283/.373/.441 batting line.  Along with getting on base, Choo has good power and speed numbers as well with 43 doubles, 16 long balls, and 21 stolen bases in 2012.  Additionally, he was a 20-home run, 20-stolen base guy in 2009 and 2010.  The one hole in Choo’s overall offensive game is the strike out.  He did that 150 times in 2012, which is not ideal from a leadoff hitter.  However, Choo’s walk rate (10.6%) and ability to get on base is what the Reds are looking for when they traded for him.  However, one major question Choo's acquisition presents  is who will replace Stubbs in center? He was a below average right fielder in 2012, with -12 defensive runs saved and limited experience in center (83 innings). It has been documented that Choo will be the starting center fielder next season, but should continue to be a below average outfielder as he makes this positional transition.  Also, the Reds got utility infielder Jason Donald from the Indians.  Donald has never played more than 88 games in his 3 year career.  Overall in 170 career games, Donald has hit .257/.309/.362 with 7 home runs.  The Reds can use Donald to play multiple positions as he has played shortstop, second base, third base, and even 8 games in the outfield (5 in LF, 3 in CF) in 2012.  Statistically however, it is shown that he is a below average defender with -12 defensive runs saved for his career. 

                Now, for the players the Indians received.  Outfielder Drew Stubbs is a player who has flashed crazy tools, but has never compiled those numbers in a single season.  Stubbs has shown to be a good speed threat with at least 30 stolen bases in his last 3 seasons.  However, the trouble for him is getting on base.  He has also struggled to hit for a consistent batting average with a career stat line of .241/.312/.386.  Stubbs has not been able to walk much either, with just 44 in 544 plate appearances in 2012.  A league-leading 205 strike outs in 2011, Stubbs' propensity to miss will not help his OBP as well.  Throughout his career, he has just one defensive run saved and just two alone from last year, making him about an average defender in center.  The Indians are hoping he can bounce back from a career worst -0.2 WAR in 2012 and add speed to their outfield and offensive game.  Trevor Bauer may end up being the biggest piece of this trade, but he has yet to prove anything at the big league level.  Bauer was drafted third overall in 2011, and was ranked as Arizona’s number one prospect in 2012. He has an extremely deep repertoire with a plus low-mid 90's fastball, elite 12-6 curveball, solid changeup, and his personally created "reverse slider" (as seen below for your viewing pleasure). Yet, he has shown little ability to throw strikes consistently, as evidenced by his below average 4.2 BB/9 rate in the minors.
               Statistically speaking, Bauer struggled in 4 major league starts (6.06 ERA, 7.2 BB/9), but had very effective minor league numbers with AA and AAA.  In 130.1 innings, he compiled a 2.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 157 strikeouts.  Bauer will just be 22 years old in 2013 and the Indians are hoping he can live up to hype and be a productive starter for them in the future.  The Indians will also receive bullpen help from Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw.  Albers has struggled throughout his career with a career ERA of 4.68 and ERA+ of 94.  However, still just 29 years old, Albers posted career-highs with the Red Sox and Diamondbacks in 2012.  In 60.1 innings, he had a 2.39 ERA with a 181 ERA+.  A hard thrower, Albers may have benefited from a lower walk rate in 2012.  He walked walked 3.3 batters per 9 innings in 2012, compared to his career mark of 4.1 BB/9 and previous career high of 4.0 BB/9 in 2008 and 2010.  Shaw, 24, is a young reliever with just 2 years of MLB experience.  However he has shown he can be very productive in his 87.2 career innings pitched.  He has an ERA of 3.18 and ERA+ of 129 for his career.  

                As for Arizona, they acquire shortstop Didi Gregorius, lefthander Tony Sipp and first basemen Lars Anderson in this deal.  Gregorius, just 22 years old, has put up average numbers throughout his minor league career.  He has batted .271/.323/.376 in 5 minor league seasons.  Last year with AA and AAA he batted .265/.324/.393 with just 7 home runs and 3 stolen bases.  He has the reputation of being a glove first, bat second, player capable of being a highlight film in the field. Lars Anderson, former Red Sox top prospect, has only played in 30 games in the big leagues and has hit .167/.268/.188.  In the minor leagues he has hit .272/.369/.432 for his career with solid plate selection and a good glove.  He has shown the ability to hit for power, although his home run total dropped to just 9 in 111 games in AAA.  Lefty Tony Sipp has shown the ability to be productive, although very inconsistent during his four year stint in the majors.  His ERA+’s from 2009-2012 have progressively worsened from 146 to 96 to 130 to 89.  This inconsistency is a problem because of his wildness with a walk rate of 4.5 per nine innings.

First Impressions: 

Winners: Reds, Indians: Reds added the leadoff they desperately needed, even if he might not be the best suited to play in center field. By dumping Choo, who had just one year remaining on his deal and would not have resigned with the Tribe, the Indians acquired an extremely talented arm in Bauer and decent outfield option in Stubbs with a combined 9 years of team control remaining. 

Loser: Diamondbacks: Arizona acquired the young shortstop they so desperately coveted, except that Gregorious profiles most likely as a glove first shortstop. Nothing against defensive first shortstops who are young and have potential, but usually the price does not involve dealing a top pitching prospect, which is the downfall in this deal. If Gregorious can correct his offensive  issues, this trade could work out for the D-Backs, but seems unlikely given his scouting and statistical profile. 

By: Nick Rabasco