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Indians are right to explore trade options for Swisher

Indians are right to explore trade options for Swisher
Nick Swisher (Photo: AP)
November 19, 2014
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On Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Indians are exploring a wide range of options on the trade market including a trade of Nick Swisher for another player with a bad contract.. This was not a surprising idea to me and there are a few reasons why.

First off, last season Swisher was arguably the worst player in baseball before he went on the disabled list. One could argue that the injury was actually the entire cause of his down year, but I think that is some wishful thinking. I am not saying it didn’t affect his year, but to think next year he will just bounce back to his 2013 numbers seems very unlikely to me.

Swisher will be 34 in less than a week. He slipped a bit when he came to the Indians in year one and has tumbled ever since. It has become popular to point out that Swisher wasn’t too bad in 2013. While he had a solid year it was still a down year in his age 32 season as his average, on-base and slugging all took a notable dip.

If you take the previous four seasons and average his OPS it was 87 points higher than in his first year in Cleveland. My point is Swisher is an older player who was showing some signs of decline before his injury plagued 2014 showing.

The knee injury and subsequent double knee surgery are a huge deal because older players can often have a much harder time coming back and being the same player. If Swisher had one knee surgery it would have been cause for concern. Instead, he had surgery on both his knees at once. I am not sure how anyone wouldn’t be more than a little terrified about what a post-surgery Swisher might do over the next three seasons he is under contract which will carry him through age 36.

The other problem with the knee issues is it more or less ends any thoughts of Swisher in the outfield as he is strictly a first baseman or DH now.  I saw the Chris Antonetti quote on Swisher playing in the outfield next year, but it seemed like a way to set up a bargaining position. He also said that while Swisher was still playing and before he had the surgery.

When was the last time a guy moved to the outfield because it was the easier position to handle? Outfielders move to first base because of health and age not the other way around, but hey, one can dream right?

After last season Carlos Santana is basically ensconced at first base. He is the better hitter and the better defender. So this only really leaves one option for Swisher when it comes to the Indians, which is that he becomes the everyday DH. I am not a fan of paying a lot of money for an everyday DH unless the player has a premium bat which Swisher does not have. This hurts a team like the Indians who carry a limited bench because a player with such limitations in general hurts a team’s lineup flexibility.

Yes, it is hard to judge Swisher at this point because who knows how much of his bad year was due to a pair of knees that were falling apart. While this is the crux of any argument in Swishers favor I think it unfairly paints a partial picture.

In terms of players I would consider who have been talked about, Carl Crawford would be an offensive upgrade though at a higher salary. Edwin Jackson is a bounce back candidate who only has two years left at a cheaper pay scale. Ublado Jimenez to me would make sense, but only if Mickey Calloway can watch tape and figure out what went wrong last year.

Now for the names to avoid at all costs. Ryan Howard would generate buzz but hasn’t been close to an effective player for four years. Andre Ethier makes more money, is signed longer, and would be an offensive downgrade. BJ Upton also makes more and has struggled to hit his weight the past few years.

At the end of the day I am all for trading this bad contract, as I just can’t get past the age and injury concerns. If Swisher hadn’t already showed some signs of decline it might not have been such a concern, but for me it’s the three strikes principal. Age plus decline plus major injury means I get exactly why Chris Antonetti is willing to shop Swisher. The important thing is finding the right deal.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at

User Comments

November 19, 2014 - 6:50 PM EST
First off, neither knee had "reconstructive" surgery. Unless I'm mistaken they were both orthroscopic clean ups. Secondly, Swisher is about to turn 34, not 84 so he still has enough youth on his side to return closer to his norms. Unless someone is dumb enough to take on a good portion of his contract, Swisher will be an Indian to start the season, and I'm fine with that. Maybe he starts the season well and draws some interest is the best hopeful scenario. Swisher strikes me as a player that performs better in a supporting role. When he is looked upon to be the run producing, middle of the order bat is when he gets out of his comfort zone. With Brantley, Gomes, and Santana rounding into form, Swisher can be placed in the 6 hole and hopefully return to being an OBP machine instead of trying to hit the ball out of the yard.

Bourn on the other hand, could draw some interest. He won't bring back any top prospects unless the Indians "sweeten" the deal, but he is still a descent player. Whatever happens, I beg you Chris Antonetti, to not bring back Ubaldo! The pitching staff is the strength of this team at the moment, please don't "F" that up!
November 19, 2014 - 5:08 PM EST
The only guy it makes sense with is Edwin Jackson in Chicago. Similar contracts, and the Cubs can use Swisher as a clubhouse presence with their young roster. Now, does that mean the Cubs want Swisher to play RF in Wrigley? No way... all I'm saying is that that would be the ideal situation.

I saw Jackson pitch in Wrigley this past year against the Brewers and he threw 7 innings of shutout ball and hititng 96 on the gun. The stuff is still there... who knows, maybe Calloway can get to him and he can get back to a solid MOR arm. That would be extremely beneficial for the Indians. Sure, he might be a minor downgrade to the current rotation, but the depth that he will give them is so valuable. I can't wait to hear people crying because they're relying on Marcum/Tomlin starting every 5th day in July because there's an injury somewhere.

I wouldn't mind Upton either, but like someone said, the Braves would have to eat a lot of money on that deal to make it a fairly similar swap. At least Upton can play defense and run the bases... Swisher isn't going to provide anything. The telling statistic to me is that is O-swing percentage has increased every single year for the past 3 or 4 years. To me, shows a guy who's losing bat speed and cheating on the FB. As a result, his K #'s are going up and BB rate is dropping. This guy is DONE... if you can get anything serviceable and add something of value, do it.
John j
November 19, 2014 - 4:56 PM EST
The Phillies seem hell bent on fielding prehistoric players. We could ship bro and his walker there for a minor league pitcher....
November 19, 2014 - 3:26 PM EST
BJ Upton has been much worse and is much more expensive than Bourn. Why would anyone in their right mind want to acquire Upton? I have no problem at all with Bourn holding down CF and hitting 9th. If Upton weren't signed to that contract, he might have a tough time getting a major league deal at all right now. You're going to have Upton lead off? And hit .150? Have you seen how horrific he's been for the past 2 years?
November 19, 2014 - 3:00 PM EST

I don't think we'd even have to give up Gonzalez on that deal. The Bravos ate all of Ugla's remaining contract so I think they'd be more than willing to eat a lot of BJ's contract. I'm not advocating the deal but I will point out a few things.

1. BJ is a better defender and he's younger (without hammy issues)
2. BJ wouldn't have to hit lead-off, his ego has already been burst so slotting him at 8/9 would benefit the Indians line-up more than Bourn in the lead off spot. BJ also fits there better with his power.
3. I do fear Bourn will continue to fade as he ages (hope I'm wrong)
4. Getting back in the AL might help in getting is performance up


1. BJ can be a locker room problem
2. BJ's contract is longer and more expensive while I don't think Bourn will get enough plate appearances to exercise his option.
3. BJ's contract is longer so he'd be taking up a valuable spot on the 40 man roster longer

In the end, I'm still no unless the Braves kick in so much $$$$ that it helps in adding a RF or 3B.
November 19, 2014 - 2:44 PM EST
I would much rather have Bourn over Upton and his never-to-be-realized potential. For me, its not even close. If we can't unload Bourn for anything of value, which is quite likely, then keeping Bourn, at least until the AS break, is not terrible. He has had some decent stretches when healthy, and apparently he's an excellent teammate and clubhouse presence (which has a value for Francona), and that is something that B.J. will never be...
November 19, 2014 - 2:40 PM EST

That's the kind of deal I had in mind, but didn't spell it out as much.
November 19, 2014 - 2:25 PM EST

E.G.. the Braves receive Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn (?) and Erik Gonzalez.. The Indians receive BJ Upton, Tyrell Jenkins and Cash. Who loses in this deal is unknown.. Who wins.. both teams.. At least both teams lose a guy that they feel is not part of the solution..

Cash was in the deal.. so, you were correct..
November 19, 2014 - 2:07 PM EST
maybe being in the hospital from august 7th thru the 30th and somehow i didnt get all the details but i never did know what exactly was done to swishers knees. you have ACL Meniscus and PCL which is what urshela is having done they are all considered reconstructive knee surgeries not arthroscopic scoping) would someone refresh my memory as to what exactly was done and while it seems like at least six months before able to do any rehab per se must have been total reconstruction of the knees. maybe insurance will be a way to recover some of the money. i hope everyone is wrong and he rebounds to pre 2013 form for at least a year. i was maybe under the misguided belief that with the knees being rehabbed causeit is both knees a lot of upper body work would be part of the rehab as you rest the knees for a few minutes you do upper body weight work. but all of this is mute if the knees were both reconstruction surgeries. PLEASE ADVISE
John M
November 19, 2014 - 2:04 PM EST

I guess you are right in the traditional use of the term "pitching depth." But as someone mentioned, you need someone to be depth, and House could be waiting in the wings as Danks pitches ONE season. His shorter contract, left-handedness and lengthening the Tribe's number of feasible starters is why I value him as an option. Ubaldo to CLE is a joke, and the rest of the guys on that list are just as (or more) expensive and just as bad as Swisher. There's no point in pursuing them. That's why I voted for Danks, really the only suitable solution mentioned here so far. Is he better than House? No. But he might be a suitable 5th starter, and someone will get hurt, they always do, then House can resurface. You're going to have to find someone, and if Danks' mediocre pitching can rid you of Swisher's contract and make your roster more flexible positionally, I'm for it.

Unfortunately, the White Sox won't be...why would they?
November 19, 2014 - 1:48 PM EST
The Ubaldo stuff has to stop. How anyone can think he is a better solution than any of our current 5-6 options is beyond me. It straps the Indians as they have to guarantee him a rotation spot not just this year....but two more years after that as well. For a pitcher who had 2-3 good months surrounded by awful pitching in the last 4-5 years that makes zero sense. Don't let the Orioles off the hook for their bad mistake. I know Callaway has done a nice job, it is a lot to expect him to continue to be a miracle worker. A lot of people in the industry believe it was the light going on in Ubaldo's head to focus for that new contract than it was anything Callaway did for him. If the Indians were to acquire Ubaldo I would be severely disappointed. One of the most over-rated starting pitchers in baseball, and really, one of the worst over the last 4-5 years. I'll take my chances with House/ZMac for 1/50th the cost and on a year to year basis......and most of all trending upward with their performance.
November 19, 2014 - 1:09 PM EST
I don't know, if you're talking about trading for a bad contract, what bad contract would be better to have than Swisher? He at least fills a potential need, DH. The speculation about Jimenez to me makes NO sense, because the Indians are set for pitching, but if Swisher can't even play DH, then they don't necessarily have a great option there (I know teams like to shuffle random guys into the DH spot, but the reality is it's best to have a solid hitter who can be in that spot the majority of the time). I'd gladly spend Dolan's money and trade Swisher for Crawford, but why would the Dodgers have any interest in moving a guy who's been useful when he's on the field for a, I don't know, pinch hitter?

Swisher isn't really under contract for 3 more seasons either. The final season was a vesting year of some kind, right? The only way that vests is if he is actually productive and on the field for the next 2 seasons, which a.) is highly unlikely b.) if he's productive for the next 2 years, then it's fine to have him on board for a 3rd year
November 19, 2014 - 12:59 PM EST
What Walter said.

Don't get your hopes up. Unless we eat a good chunk of salary, neither Bourn or Swisher are going anywhere. I would rather have Swisher than the bums listed anyway. He is obviously trending down, but even though his K rate went way up last year, he has still always shown an ability to get on base. He could still hold enough value that it wouldn't be worth picking up another craptastic contract just to move him.
George K
November 19, 2014 - 12:55 PM EST
Could probably snag Arod as well
Martha Stewart
November 19, 2014 - 12:52 PM EST
I don't think Bourn's contract is much better than Swisher's anyway. At least Swisher could hit 20 homers. Bourn plays average defense with a below average arm, he strikes out too much, has no power, not a base stealing threat, and has an average OBP. With the power of hindsight, Swisher's injury was unfortunate, but Bourn was the worse signing. Adding a 30 year old speedster to a 4 year contract was just stupid.
November 19, 2014 - 12:51 PM EST
Tony, but adding Ubaldo or Jackson adds depth nonetheless. Sure they'd have to be in the majors, but House obviously has options, so he becomes the depth. Plus, are you really ready to anoint him the 6th starter assuming Mac doesn't win it? I think he's perfectly suited for that 6th starter who shuttles between columbus and cleveland until he gets a few more starts under his belt.

I don't know why you're so opposed to Ubaldo. The reason it makes sense is because Callaway seemed to unlock super U last summer, so he may have better reclamation potential with us. It just seems that we need a 5th starter much more than we need a DH who hopefully will be able to fill in at first or RF.
November 19, 2014 - 12:17 PM EST
Trading Swisher or Bourn highly unlikely. Expect both to be on the Opening Day roster. If for some reason CA can pull a rabbit of the hat to trade either, than might as well give the GM of the year award for to 2015 to CA.
November 19, 2014 - 12:08 PM EST
GSON, not interested in any deal for BJ Upton unless the Braves chip in some $$$$. They are desperate to unload BJ and would add some cash to the deal. BJ's deal is longer and more costly than Bourn's (I'm not sure Bourn will get the # of AB's to trigger his option as he's missed some time the last 2 years with hammy issues - which I expect to continue). BJ does have some value in a deal but only if the Indians get some cash back. As I said, the Braves are desperate to unload BJ so they could be fleeced.

November 19, 2014 - 11:54 AM EST
The only way to know the answer to this question is to have inside insight into Swisher's condition and frame of mind.

Personally, I think the guy might have the class to retire rather than embarrass himself.

November 19, 2014 - 11:21 AM EST
The one thing that the Tribe has going for it right now is Callaway. The guy is really something and has proved that he can work with pitchers and help them get the most out of their abilities. I have been so impressed by him and CA and TF know all of this even better than we do.

So to me, what that means is that a pitcher like Jimenez or Jackson, or maybe even Danks moves from an "untouchable" to a "hmmm...?" He makes it possible to even consider them as valuable contributors. They would still be high risk, but less so for this team than others because of Callaway. I'm not advocating for any of those guys, as I like the starting staff we are building, but benefit would be being able to offer a package that includes Bauer or Salazar who have value and could help acquire a good hitter...
Larry M
November 19, 2014 - 11:13 AM EST
I've been in on this conversation previously, but it only makes sense to try to move Swisher -- especially if the Tribe is of the notion (like me) that he will probably not rebound to even a serviceable status. I am all for taking a shot at a bad contract swap, but that only makes sense if you think your return has a chance at production. It is a gamble, but it is one that has to be driven by our own internal evaluation of Swisher. If you are of the mind that Swisher will give you some production next year, then the bad contract swap is probably not worth considering.
I am not against taking back an arm in some such deal, as it likely makes one of our young pitchers an attractive trade chip.

Bourn has more value, no doubt...but then again, just about everybody has more value than Swish and his deal.

Eating a good chunk of money this year on either Bourn or Swisher is certainly worth considering, but of course that is easy to say in the abstract without any solid offers to consider. I do trust the Indians are exploring all such options.

I remain hopeful that somewhere along the line we can acquire at least one strong bullpen piece. I like the talent we have in the minors, but we truly need another guy that Francona feels good about using later in games...likely a veteran. It is not sexy, but we need more options in the pen.

November 19, 2014 - 11:12 AM EST
@ Homer..

Bad contract for bad contract.. means that everyone ends up with a bad contract..

Another approach that could/should be explored would be the Indians trade exactly the guy that will fill another team's need along with a bad contract for exactly the guy that the Indians need along with that team's bad contract..

E.G.. the Braves receive Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn (?) and Erik Gonzalez.. The Indians receive BJ Upton, Tyrell Jenkins and Cash. Who loses in this deal is unknown.. Who wins.. both teams.. At least both teams lose a guy that they feel is not part of the solution..

Ted L
November 19, 2014 - 11:11 AM EST
It would be smart to get a player who has just 1 season on his deal. Even if they paid more than Swisher. That could mean the Indians get more than 20 million dollars for 2016.
November 19, 2014 - 11:06 AM EST
Hah! Unloading Swisher at this point would be an absolute miracle! I can imagine that word is getting out that CA will talk to anyone who has any interest whatsoever, but who would have that interest? Crazier things have happened, but getting out of Swisher's contract is not going to be easy at all, and imo has maybe a .0001% chance of happening. I agree that Bourn would be easier to move, but not by much. This is Antonetti's season right now and I for one hope that he surprises us and does something creative and bold to get this team over the hump...anything's possible I suppose...
November 19, 2014 - 11:00 AM EST
Trading Swisher for just about anyone would be a good deal. Simply put, Swisher cannot hit. We have to pay Swisher To Not Hit ; maybe we can pay to someone else To Hit...even if it is just a gamble. Actually just removing Swisher from the lineup would be a plus and removing Murphy and Chisenhall would also be wise positive moves...these guys cannot hit!
November 19, 2014 - 10:46 AM EST
And I agree on Bourn. If the Indians want to unload some money and maybe get some value in exchange, Bourn is the better bet. Swisher is just a swap for another poor performer and awful contract. No pitcher fits in such a deal.....and I don't see a bat out there who fits at 3B or RF or even DH that won't be as much of a question mark or financial albatross as Swisher.
November 19, 2014 - 10:44 AM EST
John, Danks is not pitching depth. How is a guy pitching depth when he costs a lot of money and has zero roster flexibility? If they get Danks, he immediately moves into the starting rotation. Same with EJax and Ubaldo. They are NOT pitching depth. Pitching depth are guys who are inexpensive and offer roster flexibility where they can be sent to AAA and/or pitch in the bullpen.
November 19, 2014 - 9:52 AM EST
I think trading Michael Bourn is more probable. He's declined as well, but he can still play solid CF. He's over priced and has some injury concerns, but might intrigue a team in deal that involves a swap of bad contracts. For example, Bourn for Jackson or Jimenez (and cash).

Maybe the Tribe can eat half of Swisher's deal...$10M this yr and $5M next, enabling them to have some flexibility next yr. Personally, I think a bad contract for bad contract might be the best move.

At the very least it shows the Indians are trying to maintain some flexibility, and possibly looking at a few creative options.
John M
November 19, 2014 - 9:52 AM EST
My best scenario would be Danks, because he'd be LH pitching depth and he has the shortest contract. I don't see everyone's fascination with Nolasco. He has a lifetime ERA well over 4 while pitching in the NL.
John M
November 19, 2014 - 9:49 AM EST
Yes, Jeff, I am in favor as well. But there's one problem, who wants him? The players mentioned above all have their warts as well. The only plus would be:

Uption: They get a legit outfielder who can't hit instead of a DH who can't hit.
Jackson & Ubaldo: They get pitching depth.
Crawford & Ethier: They get OFs who, well, at least Crawford can still hit.

But where would the Dodgers play Swisher? They have no DH and too many OF already. 1B?

I didn't mention Howard because he has become irrelevant.

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