Merry Swish-mas: Indians, Nick agree to four-year pact
On Sunday, MLB.com confirmed that Cleveland has reached an agreement on a four-year contract with Swisher. The deal with the outfielder is pending a physical and is unlikely to be officially announced until after the holiday. As such, the ballclub would not comment on the agreement.
Adding Swisher to the fold was the latest move within an aggressive offseason for the Tribe, which is trying to swiftly move beyond its 94-loss showing last year. Cleveland already brought in a new manager in Terry Francona, signed a new first baseman in slugger Mark Reynolds, and added a top-flight pitching prospect via trade in Trevor Bauer.
Swisher now becomes the biggest free-agent signing in Indians franchise history.
The agreed-upon contract will pay Swisher $56 million over his four guaranteed seasons and includes a vesting option based on plate appearances for 2017. If the outfielder reaches the required plateau in the 2016 campaign, he could earn another $14 million in '17, pushing the deal's potential value to $70 million.
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News first reported the agreement.
Swisher took to social media to share his excitement.
"Wow! What a crazy few weeks," he wrote on his Twitter account, @NickSwisher. "Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I'm coming home!"
The handshake deal completes what was a strong push to acquire Swisher by the Indians, who treated the free-agent outfielder like a star recruit throughout the process. Last week, the Indians hosted Swisher and his wife, JoAnna, in Cleveland for a two-day visit on Monday and Tuesday. Swisher met with Francona, team president Mark Shapiro, team CEO Paul Dolan and other club executives.
During the visit, the Indians also had former Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel on hand to try to help sway Swisher to bring his family to the Buckeye State. Swisher -- born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised in Parkersburg, W. Va., near the southeast Ohio border -- played baseball at Ohio State. His father, former big leaguer Steve Swisher, attended Ohio University.
The Tribe focused on Swisher's Ohio roots during the negotiations. As part of Swisher's tour of Progressive Field, Cleveland showed his image in an Indians uniform on the scoreboard above the left-field bleachers, and then played a special video message featuring the likes of OSU football coach Urban Meyer and basketball coach Thad Matta, among others.
Swisher and his family were impressed by their visit with the Indians.
The outfielder brings more than local appeal to Cleveland, though. The Indians wanted to bring him into the mix to provide some added power and on-base ability to a lineup that ranked just 13th in the American League in runs scored last season. The 32-year-old Swisher can also provide some veteran leadership to a relatively young roster, taking some pressure off of Cleveland's up-and-coming players.
Adding Swisher to play right field completes the starting outfield picture for the Tribe, which projects to have Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley filling the other two spots. It remains undetermined if Brantley -- Cleveland's starting center fielder for most of the past two seasons -- will shift to left field to allow Stubbs to patrol center.
Right field was vacated earlier this winter when the Indians teamed with the Reds and D-backs for a blockbuster nine-player trade that shipped Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland to Cincinnati. As part of that deal, the Indians aquired Stubbs from the Reds and Bauer, along with relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw, from the D-backs.
Besides Choo, Cleveland parted with infielder Jason Donald and $3.5 million (to Cincinnati) and left-handed reliever Tony Sipp and Minor League first baseman Lars Anderson (to Arizona). The Reds sent shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to the D-backs to complete the complicated trade.
Swisher, who spent the past four seasons with the Yankees, turned down a one-year qualifying contract offer from New York worth $13.3 million in order to test free agency this winter. By turning down the offer, the Yankees secured a compensation pick in next June's First-Year Player Draft.
Under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, however, the top 10 selections are protected from free-agent compensation. That means that Cleveland will not lose the fifth overall pick in the first round by signing Swisher. The Indians will lose their second round pick, though. The Yankees will earn a compensatory pick between the first and second round.
During his four years in the Bronx, the switch-hitting Swisher posted a .268/.367/.483 slash line with an average of 26 home runs and 87 RBIs per season. Over his nine-year career in the big leagues -- spent with the A's, White Sox and Yankees -- Swisher has hit .256 with a .361 on-base percentage and a .467 slugging percentage.
An American League All-Star in 2010, Swisher has averaged 151 games over the past seven seasons, posting an average of 27 homers and 84 RBIs in that span. He set his career bests in homers (35) and RBIs (95) in 2006 with the A's, and equaled a personal high in doubles (36) this past season with the Yankees.
In 148 games last year, Swisher hit .272 with a .364 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage. Along the way, he piled up 24 home runs, 75 runs scored, 77 walks and 93 RBIs in helping the Yankees to their third AL East crown in his four years in New York.
With the Swisher signing nearly in the books, Cleveland will likely turn its attention to its starting rotation. The Indians, who added lefty Scott Kazmir on a Minor League deal earlier this week, would like to add an arm or two to the mix before Spring Training. The aggressive Tribe also has a vacancy at designated hitter.