Mr. and Mrs. Nick Swisher, we cordially invite you to 24 hours of “this could be your life in Cleveland,” starring Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, and Terry Francona. Special guests include your friend and former Ohio State Football coach Jim Tressel, current baseball coach at Ohio State Greg Beals, and Thad Matta, OSU head basketball coach and ace recruiter.
On the menu: a trip to Cleveland’s finest restaurants in its most hip area, a tour of the facilities at Progressive Field, a meeting with the man who wants to pay you $50 million, Paul Dolan, and surprises galore.
We will do everything we can to convince you that this is the place for you. Cleveland wants you. Cleveland needs you. Cleveland has to have you. We hope you enjoy your stay in our fair city.
The Cleveland Indians
Yes, your Wahoos were in full out recruiting mode yesterday with the biggest bat still available on the free agent market. Reports had Swisher, his wife Joanna Garcia, and his agent Dan Lozano dining at Lola Monday night, and getting the full court press at Progressive Field yesterday before leaving town. The Tribe apparently put a picture of Swisher wearing #33 and hitting fourth up on the scoreboard screen during his entire visit. If anything, he received a tremendous ego-stroke.
Cleveland was first on Swisher’s free agent tour, where nobody seems to know the other destinations. Texas, who at this point can be viewed as the Indians prime competition for Swisher’s services, are said to be luke-warm on him. But with the loss of Josh Hamilton and missing out on Zach Greinke when they were thought to be the leaders all along, they may go towards panic mode and outbid the Tribe. The Phillies and Mariners are said to have interest as well, but Swisher has no plans to visit Seattle and the Phillies may like the cheaper Cody Ross better.
So where does this leave Swisher in terms of his options?
Cleveland is clearly the best option should money be the top priority, which it could be when you consider this is probably his last best chance at a big time, multi-year deal. The real question is does he really want to be here. Swisher loves the big stage. He adored playing for the Yankees and being in the middle of all of the action. Playing in front of 5,000 fans a night on potentially a fourth place team is obviously a turn off to him.
CBS Sports Baseball Writer Jon Heyman added this interesting nugget today when discussing Swisher’s alleged “Ohio roots.”
But Swisher, who loved New York and lives in L.A., presumably doesn’t have Cleveland as his first choice despite being from West Virginia and playing at Ohio State. Swisher dumped his rock-solid longtime Ohio-based agent Joe Bick to hire a Hollywood type, so if anything he is moving away from his Ohio roots.
Swisher’s preferred destination is Los Angeles. However, according to Heyman, the Dodgers had little interest.
a person with knowledge of the Dodgers said they had only one talk with Swisher’s Century-City based rep, Dan Lozano, regarding Lozano and it came “weeks ago.'” The person said Swisher is nowhere near their radar.
With all of this said, it really seems as if the Indians are Swisher’s best and most realistic option for the big money. The Indians are willing to overpay and seem almost desperate to make a free agent splash to placate an angry and now apathetic fan base. Also playing in the Tribe’s favor: Any team that signs Swisher, a Type-A free agent, loses their first round pick. However, because top 10 picks are protected, the Indians would lose their second-round pick instead.
Now lets weight the pros and the cons of bringing Swishalicious (that’s Yankee play by play man John Sterling’s, not mine) to Cleveland.
He’s Columbus born, played at Ohio State, and his name is on the field at the Buckeye baseball stadium. The roots are there, despite what Heyman says. He’d be the focal point of the offense and the centerpiece of the new era of Indians baseball along with Francona. He would instantly become a legend for coming to Cleveland as the first big name free agent to bet on Cleveland since Roberto Alomar in 1999, which was an entirely different circumstance and time. Swisher is personality plus with a good looking, TV actress wife. The Indians will put him right out their guy to help bring the fans back to Progressive Field. The durability is there as well; the 148 games he played last season were the LEAST amount he has played since 2005, his first full year in the bigs.
There’s always the worry that at age 32, the inevitable slowdown could take place. He has made a living with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium over the past four seasons where he averaged 26 homers and 87 RBIs. Giving Swisher four years is not a risk for teams that can spend over their mistakes, but if he is a disaster in the first two years in Cleveland, this is the Travis Hafner extension all over again. The Yankees, who are always searching for a bat, had no problems letting him walk away, despite nice numbers over the last four seasons there. I know that the Steinbrenner’s have a downsizing of payroll edict by 2014, but that number they want to stay under ($189 million) is more than double a Tribe payroll. If they thought he was invaluable to them, wouldn’t he be kept around? Lastly, while he personality is infectious, we have no idea how he would respond to all of the losing.
Now that Swisher and his entourage has left town, all we can do is sit back and wait.
(photo via Roger Wong/INF)