IPI Inbox: Should the Indians go all out for Swisher?
It has been awhile, and thanks to the nudging from some readers, I decided to dust off this old feature and bring it back to the site. Going forward, hopefully we can do this inbox feature two or three times a month, maybe even weekly.
In any case, it is time for another IPI Inbox to talk about some of the questions from the minors to the big leagues that Indians fans have asked of late. If you have a question on anything pertaining to the Cleveland Indians from the minors to the big leagues that you would like answered in a future inbox, feel free to contact me. I also pull from questions in the comments sections in articles, and also from Twitter, so you can post your questions there as well.
To the IPI Inbox we go.....
Jordan Swick wrote: What do you think the Tribe should do about free agent outfielder Nick Swisher? I really do think we should go right at him and give him what he wants. Signing him would tremendously help the ball club in the outfield for next year.
Answer: I hear you. And the Indians do too. They have actually been aggressively trying to sign him for a while now, and the belief is they offered him a four year deal already somewhere between $50-60 million. But he has not yet signed, and to me that speaks volumes. Maybe he simply wants to wait and see what other offers come his way before jumping at the first serious offer, or maybe he simply does not want to sign with the Indians unless he has no options elsewhere and is just using them for leverage.
With the Angels signing Josh Hamilton on Thursday, the Swisher market should heat up as the Rangers will probably turn to him to fill their outfield void now that Hamilton is gone. That of course would be bad news for the Indians as they simply would not be able to compete with the Rangers for Swisher’s services. The Mariners could also be in play as well. You watch, the Indians will probably end up as the team that offers him the best deal, but in the end he decides to take less to go elsewhere. I hope I am wrong as I think he could fill the void well in right field, and maybe even be a better contributor than Shin-Soo Choo.
Matt Feltrup wrote: On paper the signing of first baseman Mark Reynolds and the prospect of signing Swisher seems great. But with the [Indians already trading Choo] and rumors they will trade Cabrera, it also seems like the Indians are trying to re-load the minor league system, in which there is a widely perceived lack of talent. I like the aggressiveness for a change, but is it really smart to believe you can make moves to re-load the system and other moves geared toward competing this coming season all at the same time?
Answer: Yes, I believe you can do both at once. The focus is not necessarily on restocking the minor league system, but to get Major League players or Major League ready prospects in exchange. So, yeah, they may get some "prospects", but they would be prospects that help the big league team now and not to give the farm system a boost.
The Trevor Bauer deal is a great example of what they are trying to do. They want to acquire players that can help now, be it in free agency or a trade, which is why they tried to get Shane Victorino and why they are after Swisher, Edwin Jackson and have already signed Reynolds. The pickup of Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Bryan Shaw, and Matt Albers fits into their plan well of adding short term and long term assets to the roster. That trade helps the Indians in the short term as all four players are expected to contribute significantly to the big league team next season, and it also helps the Indians in the long term as well with Bauer in tow for six years, Shaw for five years, and Stubbs for three years.
That's the point of emphasis, to get players that help now and are also under control for several years. It's why they are also open to three or four year deals for free agents as they are trying to lock in players for a certain timeframe. This is a huge change in their philosophy from previous years where they often took a risk averse approach to free agency and trades.
Home Away From Home wrote: Are the Indians demanding too much in return for Asdrubal Cabrera, or is it more par for the course aiming high and settling on 'more realistic' alternatives?
Answer: The Indians are certainly asking for a lot in return for Cabrera, as they should be. And they should not settle for less, and they won’t (or at least the hope is they won’t). The Indians are under no pressure to trade him as he is under control for two more years at a reasonable cost and helps them win now. Has he maxed out his value? Probably. Is this the most opportune time to trade him? Yeah, probably as well. We know that, they know that, and so does the rest of the baseball universe. So they need to be cool about it and not come across as desperate so they control any negotiations teams have with them about him.
They should demand more than he is worth and hope someone overpays for him. It’s sort of the same approach they took with Shin-Soo Choo, and look how that turned out as a desperate Reds team looking for a leadoff hitter and an equally desperate Diamondbacks team looking for a shortstop came out of the woodwork and gave the Indians a good bounty in exchange for a player that was gone as a free agent after the season anyway.
Robert Benjamin wrote: I'm seeing the Cubs are still willing to pay Alfonso Soriano a big chunk of what's left in his contract in a trade for a prospect. If we lose out on Nick Swisher, do you think we may give them a call before moving on to Plan B (Cody Ross)?
Answer: The Indians had interest in Soriano last summer and were quite active in trying to acquire him before the July trade deadline. I think he is definitely one of the fallback options in play if they miss out on Swisher. I still believe they prefer the free agent route with Swisher or Ross, but if they miss out on both, then it could push them to do something with the Cubs.
Soriano is owed $36 million over the next two seasons, so the Indians would demand a large portion of that contract be picked up, probably at least half, for them to consider making a deal. Considering it would be a salary dump the Indians probably would not need to part with anything of great value player-wise, so it is worth considering. He would bring some much needed power from the right side, but he would also be the third high strikeout prone player the Indians add to the roster this offseason (Reynolds, Stubbs).
Also, keep in mind that while Soriano had a good year last season hitting .262 with 32 homers, 108 RBI and .821 OPS, he still only had a 1.8 WAR and has a combined 0.3 WAR over the last four seasons (-1.8 in 2009, 0.6 in 2010, -0.3 in 2011). Other than him being a name player, would he really impact the roster? By the same token over the last four seasons Swisher has a 10.1 WAR and Ross a 3.1 WAR. Swisher is the much more impactful player and why they are trying so hard to sign him.
Pete Corcoran wrote: If we end up missing on Swisher how about trading for Corey Hart from the Brewers? I think he is in the same contract situation as Choo was, but may be signable. He will be 31 next year, is an extra base hit machine and a right-handed batter.
Answer: Hart is on the radar and is someone that the Indians checked in on before the July trading deadline and reportedly have done the same this offseason. But the problem with him is he is a year away from free agency, and I do not see the Indians in a position to go out and essentially get a rental right now. Maybe in July, but not right now. They are targeting more long term answers, and I do not believe they want to pay the cost of a few valuable prospects for a player that will be here for one year.
Sure, there is a chance they could resign him, but that would be unlikely. He has no connection to the organization and there is no reason to consider he would be willing to sign an extension. To me that would make much more sense for him to do with the Brewers, a team he has spent his entire career. If the Indians traded for him he would play here for the season and then go out and test the market. And besides, I am not sure the Indians have the right pieces to deal to the Brewers for Hart. I would have to guess they would want upper level pitching in return for him, but the Indians simply do not have that in their system right now. In any case, he is an option, but I think it is very remote at this time.
Jordan Swick wrote: If the Indians don't sign Nick Swisher or another free agent outfielder this offseason is it possible that outfielder Tim Fedroff could make the big league club out of spring training to be our everyday right fielder? I'm not a huge fan of Zeke Carrera making the big league club. Give Fedroff a chance.
Answer: No, the Indians do not have a suitable option in house to be the everyday right fielder. They are going to have to fill that need externally via a trade or through free agency. Fedroff is a decent player, but not really starting material (yet) in the big leagues. If the Indians felt he was they would have given him a shot the last month or two of last season. He’s viewed more as an extra player or perhaps a platoon option, and he could surface later in the year as an option to reduce some of Drew Stubbs at bats against right-handers.
Carrera is probably the favorite to make the team as the fourth outfielder because of his experience, versatility to play all three outfielder positions, good speed, and how he complements Stubbs. Bottom line, they need to sign Swisher, Ross, or some other free agent, or go on the trade market for Alfonso Soriano or someone else to fill the hole in right field.
Jim Fehr wrote: What do you feel is the upside to left-handed pitching prospect Giovanni Soto? Can he be a #4 or #5 starter, or will he end up as a lefty out of the pen?
Answer: Soto still has a chance to be as high as a #3 starter, but he probably best projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a bullpen option. It just depends on the Indians need and if he can develop his breaking ball and show the endurance to pitch 180 or more innings a season. In four years in the minors the most innings he has ever pitched in a season is 121.1 innings, which was this past season at Double-A Akron. The Indians appear to be committed to him as a starting option, as they should be, but you have to remember that Rafael Perez also started all the way up until he was called up to Cleveland for the first time in 2006.
Ultimately, I think Soto ends up following in Perez’s footsteps and is destined to be a reliever. In a lot of ways he is like Perez was when he first came up as a lanky pitcher with a good sneaky fastball and some deception, and while Perez had the wipeout slider, Soto has a dynamite cutter. The Indians are short on left-handed relief options at the moment with really only Scott Barnes, Nick Hagadone, and maybe David Huff available as internal options to fill the role, so Soto could be a guy that comes onto the scene later in the year and has a chance to be an impact late inning lefty reliever.
Paul Bestgen wrote: I haven't heard much nationally or locally about the Alex White trade to the Astros. I was curious about your thoughts of it.
Answer: Boy how the mighty have fallen. White’s stock has been in rapid decline since his finger injury in May of 2011. When the Indians dealt him in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal I was relieved because the finger issue is something I felt would hinder him going forward. He has not missed any time that I am aware of since joining the Rockies, but his performance has really dropped. He was much better with the Indians and I still wonder if the finger is an issue that he is trying to pitch around. Since returning from the finger injury his command has been worse, his velocity has not been as good, and his secondary offerings have not been as sharp.
In any case, the Rockies were quick to dump him which would seem to imply there were some concerns privately and they wanted to get something for him now before things unraveled. Wilton Lopez is a good reliever, so it appears they were still able to maximize White’s value some, although another pitcher was included in the deal. I still say the finger is an issue. Maybe it was the Colorado air as it affects every pitcher differently, so a move to Houston may help him. We will see.
Matt Feltrup wrote: Wouldn't the Tribe get a first round compensatory draft pick if Choo left after the season, as long as they extended him a one-year contract offer for a certain amount? Would that have potentially been a more valuable asset?
Answer: Yes, they would have received a first round compensatory pick for Choo had they kept him for the season, made a qualifying offer, and let him walk. That pick had value in two ways. It would provide the ability to take a pretty talented player between the first and second, but more importantly, it would add around $1 million to the bonus pool. That's a big boost and would give a team a lot more to play with in signing those top ten round picks. In the end, the Indians got Bauer who is much more valuable than any pick or bonus money they could have received, and the extra players Stubbs, Albers, and Shaw just make it all the more sweeter.
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One clarification with my post: I meant to say "end of his prime or past his prime" - I don't think Swisher is washed up, but I don't think he'll get better, and I his performance will gradually decline- I think some signs of that are already starting to show, certainly enough to make me think he's not worth the 4 yr at $60M or so.
I too believe that Swisher is just using the Indians to get more from the Rangers or the Mariners. Plus, I have concerns over Swisher's ability over the next 4 years:
1. He's 32, so he's already at the end or past his prime.
2. He has NOT been good in the postseason, (think it's something like .150-.160 BA and 47 total bases and 46 Ks), which suggests to me that either a. he struggles under pressure situations, b. he struggles against top-flight pitching (and his BA, while not always a great indicator, would suggest he's more a .250-.260 guy rather than .300+ like he showed earlier in his career), or c. both a and b.
3. From what I've heard, Swisher isn't that great of a defender (not Choo's equal). While we're not really pursuing Swisher for his defense, it's still something to consider.
The main point: Swisher isn't likely to come here unless we really overpay him (perhaps), and I'm not sure he's worth overpaying. To me, he looks more like a 5-6 hitter rather than a 3-4 hitter, prone to the sudden streaks and prolonged slumps of lesser hitters. In other words, I don't see the next coming of Pronk by signing Swisher.
Personally, I'd go after Ross now, as he would come cheaper, I think he's a better defender than Swisher (or at the very least equal), and you'd probably have a better chance of signing him quickly, especially if you give him a good contract (i.e. maybe pay $1-$2M/yr more than you should).
I would also, as some here have suggested, throw the majority of the FA money into pitching. I'd target Jackson first to see if I could land him; if I can't get him, I'd go for Jurrjens. Reading a little more on Marcum and his shoulder/elbow trouble and loss of velocity, I wouldn't go after him. I would target one of the other two (Jackson, Jurrjens in that order for me) and do my best to sign one of those two.
I'd even do that first if Ross isn't willing to sign right away. Then, come back to Ross. If you can't sign Ross, then I might try to pry Soriano away from the Cubs for a reasonable price in a trade or look at some other option (not sure what off the top of my head).
Bottom line: I'd forget Swisher and move quickly before more focus is put on some of the other players, thinking it would give the Indians a better chance of signing them.
If the Mariners sign Swisher, then they may be signalling a return to competitiveness (or at least that they're trying to be competitive) and will need a SS badly, is there any chance that a Cabrera and Perez for Hultzen and Mike Zunino deal could happen? Hultzen will probably need at least half a season at AAA, and Zunino a full year there, but both have high ceilings.
Zunino gives us another middle of the order type bat, and sounds like he's a good defensive catcher, meaning that we could fill 1B internally with Santana if needed and still use him as the primary back up catcher. Hultzen gives us another guy with front of the rotation stuff and is a lefty to help break up the all righty monotony the Indians rotation currently has. Like Bauer though, he does have some control issues, but it seems to me that a full season at AAA could really help iron things out for him. If both of them pan out we could have a better rotation than Detroit.
I still would love to see Cabrera, Perez, Joe Smith and Ubaldo traded and maybe even try to flip Stubbs..just because I know the frustration he is going to bring to myself and other fans. Pick up more young, upside arms with the goal of sorting through what they can do this year. Play Fedroff and Carrera and hope for a full year of a healthy Chizzy. With these big contracts being thrown around, plenty of these guys will be available at a discounted rate within a year or two, when hopefully the young arms will be ready to compete. Don't tie up huge chunks of payroll on overpay/desperation signings.
I do want to tip my cap to the FO on the Choo/Bauer trade. I'm still blown away by the take in that deal. Not sure how that got done, but very glad that they pulled it off.
The organization can't play in the middle - it is either be all in or all out and rebuild. Not sure what their intentions are currently. I'd keep selling off assets for young pitching, something that is easier said than done I know, but really no reason to burn through $$$ for a $10m or $12m a year player when you have not a snowballs chance in hell of going anywhere with this pitching staff.
From what I understand, it was an attitude problem. White seriously disliked the 75 pitch limit that the Rockies front office came up with (so did Tracy), and he was very, VERY vocal about it. The Rockies probably saw that coupled with him not doing well at all (which none of their pitchers really did other than Chacin after he came back from his injury) and decided that it was time for him to move on. I have heard some rumblings that the Rockies were looking at him as a reliever next year, which could be due to them having Chacin, JDLR, Pomeranz, Friedrich, Nicasio, Chatwood, and at the time of the trade they were expected to re-sign Francis, which they did.