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Winter Meetings Recap: Indians interest in Swisher heats up

Winter Meetings Recap: Indians interest in Swisher heats up
December 5, 2012
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Day three of the winter meetings is almost in the books. The news and rumors will surely continue into the night, and if anything of substance regarding the Indians has legs we will provide the update on Twitter @TonyIPI and on the “news” page here on the site.

Here is a recap of all the Indians news from today:

- After losing out on outfielder Shane Victorino (more on him below), the Indians have now shifted their attention to outfielder Nick Swisher. The Indians are very interested in Swisher and they are one of the top suitors for him. The Mariners and Orioles are said to also be in the mix, and even the Red Sox are said to still be in on him even after signing Victorino. The Indians would obviously take their four year $44 million deal they offered to Victorino and use that money plus more to sign Swisher. He would really push their limits as he probably would require up to $14 to $15 million a year to sign, which means something like a 4/56 deal. The Orioles and Mariners are probably the Indians biggest opposition and they have more money and thus more wiggle room to sign Swisher, so while I think there is a great opportunity for the Indians to sign him, I think he ultimately signs with one of them (my guess is the Orioles). That said, the draw to come home and play for the team just a little over two hours up the road from where he was born and went to college at Ohio State should help. Also, manager Terry Francona has reportedly been putting forth his best recruiting efforts as he has called him to try to woo him to the Indians. If the Indians are somehow able to sign Swisher this would go down as their biggest free agent signing in terms of money in franchise history, and it would be a much better use of the money that they were so eager to give to Victorino. If they lose out on Swisher, look for them to turn their attention to outfielder Cody Ross.

- There are all kinds of rumors flying around with the Indians and Diamondbacks. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince says the Indians and Diamondbacks have been working on a deal for weeks and have the framework of a deal in place where right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer would go to the Indians in exchange for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. The Indians want at least two high profile Major League ready pitching prospects for Cabrera, and they have targeted both Bauer and left-hander Tyler Skaggs, but the Diamondbacks have balked at the inclusion of both and they supposedly prefer to deal Bauer.  More would have to come the Indians way in exchange for Cabrera, but the Indians and Diamondbacks have had trouble agreeing on what the additional player or players should be, hence why there is talk of a three or four team deal being worked on that involves any or all of the Rangers, Royals and Rays. In such a three or four team deal, some of the players rumored to be going to the Indians are Rangers prospects third baseman Mike Olt and left-handed pitcher Martin Perez. If the Indians are able to somehow make this all work where they deal Cabrera and net both Bauer and Skaggs or one of Bauer/Skaggs and land Olt, it would be a fantastic haul. It may be a pipedream, but one can dream.

- The Indians have also been connected to rumors involving trade talks for Justin Upton, but I still have a hard time believing this. The Indians have limited trade assets to acquire the frontline pitching they need, which is the only reason why they are even considering trading Cabrera to begin with. But to trade Cabrera in some sort of deal for Upton would leave them very little from which to work from to get those high level arms that they covet. Sure, the lineup would be improved with Upton, but to win and win consistently you need very good starting pitching. Right now they have a collection of third through fifth starters for the big league rotation and lack any frontline starting pitching prospects in the minors. The only way to acquire such pitching is in free agency – which we know is an impossibility – and through trades. To get high level arms in a trade you have to have something to trade, and Cabrera is that piece they can deal to net what they want. But if they trade Cabrera in a package deal for Upton, well, good luck in getting a big time arm in Cleveland anytime soon. They really need a young, frontline arm to anchor the rotation so they can build around him going forward with free agents and internal options.

- The Indians met with agent Joe Bick on Tuesday, who represents first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis. The Indians continue to keep an open dialogue with Bick and are one of his strongest suitors. The White Sox were originally thought to be one of his top landing spots, but on Wednesday afternoon they signed third baseman Jeff Keppinger to a three year $12 million deal. The Yankees strongly pursued Keppinger, so their interest is expected to move to Youkilis as they look to fill their third base void. The presence of the Yankees would seem to hurt the Indians chances of landing Youkilis, but the Yankees are not the typical Yankees this offseason as they are operating on a strict budget and have been mandated by ownership to get payroll under $189 million for the 2014 season. While no signing appears imminent, the Indians have stepped up their efforts to sign Youkilis and have to be considered one of the clear favorites to sign him.

- Outfielder Jason Bay has signed a one year deal with the Mariners. There were some reports earlier in the day that he favored signing with the Indians and they had offered him a one year guaranteed deal, but in the end signing with the Mariners made more sense for him since he lives there in the offseason. I have not seen the final figure, but I think he would have been a good buy low option for one year and $3 million or less. He was awful last season with the Mets, but I think he is worth taking a shot at for little money. His best days are behind him, but if he is healthy he could still be a productive player and a Johnny Gomes type addition from last offseason.

- There was a report from an Atlanta newspaper that the Braves have checked in on outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Even though Choo is a free agent after this season, the Indians are still asking for a lot in a trade for him. At the moment the market for Choo is cool because of the Indians’ demands and also the presence of several options still available on the free agent and trade market. With Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Josh Hamilton, and Cody Ross still on the market, teams still have alternatives they can turn to that only cost money. Also, Justin Upton is currently dominating the trade front. But as those players find new homes, the market for Choo is expected to intensify as teams with outfield needs turn to the Indians to get more serious in trade talks. The Indians still may be best served to hold onto Choo until July and consider trading him then when his value should be as good or better, but if things heat up and a team is desperate for outfield help, the Indians could still strike on a Choo trade sometime this offseason.

- Trade talks involving closer Chris Perez have been pretty quiet. Some of this could be a lack of activity in the closer’s market this offseason, but some of it could also be a lack of interest on the Indians part to deal him unless they are bowled over with an offer. The Indians view their bullpen as a strength of the team as the backend of Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez is about as good as you can get in the league. They also have several other arms like Cody Allen, Nick Hagadone, Tony Sipp and others they really like and rounds out a very good, deep bullpen. The urgency to trade Perez may still not be there, and even though he had one of the best years of his career and will cost close to $8 million next season, he may still be more valuable to the Indians for the 2013 season than anything they could command in a trade right now. He could still be dealt this offseason, but a trade appears to be more likely around the July deadline if he is pitching well and the Indians are not in contention.

- Shortly after yesterday’s update, outfielder Shane Victorino agreed to a deal with the Red Sox for three years $39 million. It was later reported by several people that the Indians actually offered the bigger deal as they had a four year $44 million deal on the table to him, but he declined and took less money to go to the Red Sox. This is one of the rare cases where I am happy the Indians finished second in a deal. I know a lot of people are tired of finishing second on a big deal, but this is one that I think would have been a disaster for the Indians. I appreciate the effort and the willingness to spend and go the extra mile, but Victorino is not that guy to do that with. So, thankfully the Red Sox were foolish enough to make the deal and he chose to sign with them.

- What I love about the contract that the Indians offered to Victorino is it is a clear sign that they have changed their ways and will be more aggressive this offseason. Yes, they did not complete the deal, but there now appears to be a commitment to going out and paying for free agents they think can help them, even overpaying for them. Overpaying for free agents is not the best way to build a baseball team, but for an organization viewed so poorly by the fan base, I am fine if they go out and overspend a little in order to help rekindle some of that fan morale they have lost over the years. This sets up for what should continue to be an interesting offseason as the Indians appear willing to spend some money and make some aggressive trades.

Quick hits

- While trade talks between the Indians and Diamondbacks have centered around a Cabrera trade, the Indians also have some interest in outfielder Jason Kubel. He is signed for only more season at $7.5 million in 2013 (he has a mutual option for $7.5 million in 2014) and would be a good fit for the Indians, plus they were interested trading for him in 2011 and signing him last offseason.

- The Indians are showing interest in third baseman/outfielder Mark Reynolds. He hits for a low average and strikes out a lot, but he has a lot of power and gets on base. He could be a fallback option for the Indians if they miss out on Youkilis.

- According to a few national media types, the Brewers are considering trading first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart to clear room in the budget so they can get some pitching. The Indians had interest in him before the July trade deadline, so you would have to think the Indians would at least check in again and hear the Brewers’ asking price.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

shy
December 6, 2012 - 12:22 AM EST
Dennis, Bauer can pitch. He is right now in my view the most unhittable pitcher available and he is only 21. He is the kind of talent that could fetch 4yrs@100mil by the time he's 25. Like I said before, he is not the kind of pitcher Nagy likes to work with, and Dbacks are already loaded w pitching and just need some infield talent to compete for a title w Giants/Dodgers. So they can afford to let him go to get an All Star shortstop. On the other hand, I can't swear that he hasn't juiced, or that his shoulder MRI would come up totally clean. This is what Antonetti gets paid for, to figure it out, and so far he has done a lousy job and put most of the blame on Manny Acta
Dennis
December 5, 2012 - 10:46 PM EST
We are all aware that Swisher is going to cost us our second round draft pick, right?

So, we are going to sign Swisher to a bloated FA contract and trade our starting SS for some unproven (though talented) ML pitching and lose a draft pick. You have to be expecting a lot more from Mike Aviles then he has been delivering if you expect these moves to make sense.

We are not making our team stronger by subtracting Cabrera and adding Swisher, unless Swisher is a gold glove SS, too.

BTW, Bauer is a short righty with a funky delivery who puts up great stats. Sounds like a sucker play to me if Arizona is willing to give him up in a trade.
shy
December 5, 2012 - 9:47 PM EST
Roger, everyone here should know by now what I think of Antonetti. He has no more baseball personality than a wet paper bag, so why should he be able to sell his way out of one? The only people in baseball he can influence are old man Dolan and his kid, and that's only because they know less about baseball than he does- that would be next to nothing. Not to insult people who are visually impaired here, but it's like the blind leading the blind. It feels to me like Antonetti won't leave until Dolan is dead or broke.
Matt
December 5, 2012 - 9:43 PM EST
Roger, I am as sick of Antonetti as anyone, but so far this offseason the front office has done nothing to complain about. Any FA that signs a minor league deal this time of year is clearly AAA depth, the Indians can sign as many as they want, who cares? High end free agents are being overpaid so much this year I almost hope they don't sign any significant FAs (if you were the GM or owner would you really want to give Swisher or Victorino that kind of money?), the make or break issue this offseason will be the return Antonetti gets for the big guns. Everyone knows he is looking for young, ML ready front line starters, which is great. No way he can screw this up, right?
Roger
December 5, 2012 - 7:49 PM EST
it looks like after 3 days another winter meeting has come and gone and nothing happens. either antonetti cant sell his way out of wet paper bag or he isnt trying very hard. we seem to get only the rejects that no one else wants. maybe i am a cynic but after a while it appears nothing happens. and lo and behold only the draft is left tomorrow so looks like nada out of nashville. nice going chris
Seth
December 5, 2012 - 5:49 PM EST
I think they're wasting their time with Swisher. I would not be surprised if the Red Sox aren't still looking at him too. Their pickup of Victorino might mean they actually intend on trading Ellsbury for another need, moving Victorino to CF, and then could still use Swisher. I think the Indians should really just get something done with Cody Ross.

The D-backs would definitely be nuts to give up Bauer and Skaggs for Asdrubal, don't see that happening. If the Indians can get Bauer and another decent prospect for Asdrubal that would be a sweet deal. Hey, we can include Laporta in the deal too as an extra ... um ... sweetener. The D-backs can always hope the second hip surgery will turn him into the masher he was supposed to be. And Cord Phelps. They can have him.
Shy
December 5, 2012 - 5:20 PM EST
Tony, as you know I go to a lot of A's and Giant games. I have been there to see Swisher come up and play 40-50 games in Oakland. I have also partied with him. He and his wife used to do benefits at the Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley. He's a great guy, infectious winning personality, and he is an Ohio boy, growing up in Columbus. I just think his skills have peaked and I don't want to see him running after balls in the outfield that others would be catching. And he goes into some of THE WORST hitting slumps I've ever seen- not just in the playoffs. I think psychologically he is a guy who needs to be on a winning team to perform his best- that's probably to some degree true of most people, but esp for him. The Indians are not one of those teams so why waste the bucks? Hey I saw where Dolan unloaded the Indians TV rights to Rupert Murcoch's News Corp (FOX) for something like 240mil. A smart owner and GM could really build something w that kind of dough. I think bringing in Swisher would not be the best use of it. Thanks as always for doing all the hard work w the Site!
Tony
December 5, 2012 - 4:44 PM EST
A quick note that the Phillies are in the mix for Swisher, and it is said to be them, the Indians and Mariners vying for his services. Shy, I completely disagree on Swisher. Basing a decision to sign him based on postseason performance would be a poor way to go about things with him. But that's my opinion. Been LOTS of players that have seen their numbers plummet in the postseason and lots of crappy regular season guys to have great postseasons. Too small a sample size if you ask me. I am all-in on Swisher and hope the Indians can seal the deal. Perfect fit if you ask me.
Shy
December 5, 2012 - 4:33 PM EST
Anyone who watched Swisher go psycho/defunct in the playoffs against the Tigers would have to be baseball clueless to pay big money- or any money for that matter- to have him play in Cleveland. He has always been the kind of guy that will hit a 3 run jack when you're already up 6-1 and strike out - looking no less- with the bases loaded and you're tied 1-1. If Antonetti signs Swisher I will personally autograph his kneecaps with a shorty mag-bat.

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