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.  




12/24/2012 3:35pm

Nice article. I love Nick Swisher but he just couldn't do anything during the playoffs the last few years so they had to get rid of him.


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