Nick Swisher signing will backfire for Indians per Jim Bowden

The Cleveland Indians’ off-season acquisition of Nick Swisher is one of five moves that will backfire in the eyes of ESPN’s Jim Bowden.

Though Swisher has been one of the most consistent players in the game over the last five years and replaces the wins lost in the trade of Shin-Soo Choo, Bowden feels that the Indians’ willingness to give the outfielder $14 million — on average — per year will be a huge regret within three seasons.

“Swisher was one of the most consistent performers to hit the open market this offseason,” writes Bowden, “so the Indians can expect his normal production of 20-plus homers and an OBP above .350 even though he won’t have the same protection in the lineup he had with the Yankees. However, Swisher has never won a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger and has made it to one All-Star game in nine years. Also, he’s a mediocre defender and has an awful postseason track record, though it’s unlikely he’ll get a chance to correct that in Cleveland.

“His high energy and enthusiasm will be a huge plus to the Indians’ clubhouse,” Bowden continues, “but $56 million for a player who will be playing in his decline years from age 32 to 36 is extremely risky, especially because he doesn’t profile as a legitimate 3-4-5 hitter. The deal will work for the first two years, but if he’s not traded by the end of 2014, it will come back to bite GM Chris Antonetti.”

Once the signing was made official, ESPN’s Keith Law speculated that the team could flip Swisher next off-season when the free agent pool is shallow and the player is still producing a win total that would make him worth the value of his contract.  

Swisher is presently slated to play everyday right field for the Indians and bat in the middle of the order.

[Related: How Improved are the 2013 Indians?]

(h/t WFNY reader Josh)

  • @TheDeePagel

    In the immortal words of Lou Brown….

    “Let’s give’em all a nice big sh*t burger to eat…”

  • Garry_Owen

    I find this analysis to be pretty lazy. So Swisher has never won a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger and has only been to one All-Star Game? And this equates to “backfiring?” And furthermore, if he’s never performed well in the post-season, how does this “backfire” for a team that’s “not likely” to be in the post-season, anyway? His “energy and enthusiasm” are a “huge plus,” yet it’s somehow “backfiring” to sign him – even though the contract “will work for the first two years?”

    I’m sorry, there might be many reasons that the Swisher signing could “backfire,” but none of these are those.

    This argument is dismissed for failure to state a claim.

  • mgbode

    i don’t really disagree with Bowden, but the Indians didn’t have many other options this offseason, did they?

    with the waning fan support from the terrible handling of the 2008/2009 trade deadlines (in particular though others) and the back-to-back season collapses, they had to do something to win back the fans.

    Ohio State guy who has been consistent, a RH power bat whose value is roughly equal to Choo (giving us enough bat to be able to trade him for Bauer). sounds about what the doctor ordered.

    and, at worst, he gives us as much value as Hafner has during his $14mil/season years, right?

  • mgbode

    here’s the part I don’t disagree with:

    “$56 million for a player who will be playing in his decline years from
    age 32 to 36 is extremely risky, especially because he doesn’t profile
    as a legitimate 3-4-5 hitter.”

    it’s true, but negligible in this particular case for the reasons I stated in my other comment.

  • saggy

    Choo is superior to Swisher on defense. Not sure why we didn’t just try to keep Choo. I do like Swisher, though.

  • Garry_Owen

    Sure. I don’t disagree, either. It is arguable that we could have another Hafner on our hands – which would certainly be a “backfiring,” but it’s not likely. And Bowden even said that it “would work” for two years. Besides, as you note, what other legitimate 3-4-5 hitters do we have or could we have gotten.

  • boomhauertjs

    Choo has a better arm and range, but he takes some of the worst routes to balls I have ever seen.

  • FearTheRoo

    ESPN saying something negative about a Cleveland team. That never happens right? We could have signed Hamilton and ESPN would have had the same response…

  • boomhauertjs

    As Keith Law also said, with a shallow free agent pool next year and with teams having more TV money to spend, Swisher’s deal could be a value for his production, even if he slips a bit.

  • mgbode

    exactly. and, as long as he can stay healthy and maintain his hitting value, we can always move him to fulltime-DH if his fielding goes downhill (regardless of injuries).

  • mgbode

    we did try to keep Choo. he/Boras didn’t want to negotiate as they know they’ll likely get more on the open-market next offseason. it’s been referenced many places that he has turned down contract extensions. here’s one:



    not to mention, by signing Swisher and trading Choo we got Swisher and Bauer. If we signed Choo to an extension, then we don’t get Bauer (and Stubbs).

  • Because he will command a $100 million deal and the Indians are not signing anyone to such a contract.

  • BenRM

    At some level, don’t almost all big name MLB free agent signings backfire at some point? They always receive more money than they’re worth.

  • Garry_Owen

    Yeah, as mgbode said, Boras is the reason. That’s it.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think he’ll end up spending a lot of time at DH anyway.

  • nj0

    I’m not sure what the going rate is, but I’m guessing $ per WAR for FAs is probably around $5M per WAR. With a WAR hovering around 4, Swisher is a deal. Even if his production falls the last two years, $ per WAR will probably see some inflation so it won’t be a terrible deal.

    Obviously, if he breaks down or just sucks, we’ll be screwed, but that’s true of any signing.

    Basically, ESPN talking head is just talking.

  • Steve

    Boras isn’t the reason. All he’s doing is what Choo wants. Boras never puts a gun to his players’ heads making them go after the biggest deal possible. They hire him to do that, and take most of the heat from the fans/media.

  • Steve

    Depends how you view his defense. By bWAR, which sees Swisher as below average in the field, he’s a ~3 WAR guy over the last few years.

    And I think Bowden is suggesting that Swisher may be a good candidate to fall off the table quickly. Guys who are already low-value in the field (play mediocre or worse defense at a position low on the defensive spectrum) don’t have anywhere to move. If Swisher is a bad 1B/DH in a couple years, this deal starts to stink. And guys who start out as lower-AVG guys seem to lose it at the plate a bit more quickly than higher-AVG guys. And guys who blossom a bit later (at 25, Swisher isn’t a late bloomer, but that’s late for a good to great player) also tend to tail off quicker. There isn’t enough evidence yet that he’s going to stink, but the warning signs certainly are there.

  • nj0

    I trust fWar more than bWar as Fangraphs use what I consider better defensive metrics and fWar has him as a plus defensive player the last two seasons.

    I agree with Dave Cameron’s assessment- “Swisher’s been a +4 win player for each of the last three years, mixing in consistent offensive performance with solid defense and durability. He’s not sexy, but he’s rock solid across the board, with no obvious flaws or red flags to be found. He’s the safest bet in the entire class, and a four year deal would only take him through age 35. If a team can actually get Swisher for 4/56, they should jump on it before the rest of the league realizes that they’re skipping out on a bargain.”

  • Steve

    I’m not enamored by UZR, especially when it comes to odd field dimensions, like RF in Yankee Stadium. I’ll defer to the scouts who seem to have him as no better than average in the field.

    And the red flag isn’t in his past performance. He’s got solid numbers, but I’ll respond with a Keith Law quote “corner bats don’t typically age well into their mid-30s, and
    Swisher’s passive approach, with lots of walks and strikeouts, is often a
    harbinger of an earlier decline”

  • Steve

    The random one down vote is just laughable at this point. I’m sorry that someone doesn’t like me, but if they had any actual worthwhile criticism, they would type it out.

  • Garry_Owen

    Yeah, I don’t believe that. Boras is the serpent in the garden. Sure, it is ultimately the player’ “call,” but those calls don’t come from nowhere.

  • nj0

    Fair enough. I’ve never seen anyone look at players with comparable numbers and skill sets to see how they aged. I just think, that while there is obviously reason for concern regarding Sisher, I don’t know if it’s markedly more than for any 30+ vet. I mean, Choo has traditionally had an abnormal BABIP, sloppy in-field play, a history of injury, and a canon arm that doesn’t produce the put outs it once did.

  • nj0

    I don’t get the up/down votes on this site at all.

  • Boopis

    Of course the four letter network doesn’t like the signing…he didn’t sign with a big market.

  • MarkMazz

    nj0 you nailed it. I expected Swisher to get a much larger contract than he received. His draft pick attachment strongly limited his market. While it’s great we wooed him “because he was from Ohio” the reality is his market was submarined bythat compensation. It’s also happening with Kyle Lohse, Rafael Soriano and others.

    What that means is he is a steal. I fully expected 5 years $80 to $85 mil, and I think he’s a better (if older) player than BJ Upton, who received 5 years and $75 mill. Unless he has injuries his consistency and production will easily make the contract worthwhile (and also moveable if necessary). Of course, injuries happen to lots of players – Swisher has done a tremendous job of playing in 150 or more games a year. That’s something people sleep on.
    Plus his right-handed power is the most desperate need on this club.

    I literally cannot see how someone could call this a bad move if you objectively look at the free agent market. Even Keith Law, someone who notoriously disparages aging players (often deservedly) is on board as this being a great value. It doesn’t matter if it raises our payroll; the Dolans have a large influx of cash so I’m not going to cry about a slight bump.

  • ToxicToast

    Regardless of this article being about Nick Swisher or anyone else, it’s crap. ESPN writers keep on cranking out these inane articles about nothing because people eat them up. This kind of thing used to upset me, but I realized how little ESPN is committed to quality vs. quantity.

  • Steve

    Agree with this. Guys in their 30s are bad bets for long-term deals, especially non-superstars. I’d put Choo at a slightly better bet, but not enough to wager a lot on.

  • Steve

    Same, there is no benefit to it, but someone thinks they’re pretty clever, so if this is what they find entertaining, so be it.

  • MyTribe

    So what is Swisher’s “value”. 11 million a season? So for 3 million extra a season the Indians will be burned? Travis Hafner was being paid 12.5 million a year for five years for a little more than a half season of at bats each year and NO field play, Swisher’s deal, if he doesn’t injure himself, should be a fine deal.

  • MyTribe

    Swisher should give back the difference between the Indians offer and the next lowest offer, minus one dollar, as long as the indians agree to match the total amount and sign another player to a two or three year deal.