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Winter Meetings Wrap: Swisher, Youkilis are top targets

Winter Meetings Wrap: Swisher, Youkilis are top targets
December 7, 2012
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The winter meetings are over and everyone has gone home. The Indians were very active on the free agent and trade fronts, but were unable to come away from the meetings with any new acquisitions in tow.

Here are some final news, notes, and thoughts on the winter meetings:

- Things are pretty clear where the Indians stand right now. At the moment they have contract offers out to free agents Nick Swisher and Kevin Youkilis, and they are actively pursuing a trade of Asdrubal Cabrera. There are other players in the mix like Mark Reynolds and Ryan Ludwick on the free agent front, and Dee Gordon and maybe even Corey Hart on the trade front. But right now the focus is on signing Swisher and Youkilis to help the lineup and trading Cabrera for pitching help.

- Regarding Swisher, he does not appear to be close to signing, but a lot of people in the industry believe the Indians are in the best situation to sign him. At the moment the Indians, Mariners, and Phillies are his biggest suitors, but the Phillies interest may have wavered some after trading for Ben Revere. Now, as we know, these things can change at a moment’s notice, and more teams may enter the mix once Josh Hamilton signs. But Hamilton’s market is not that big, so it should not affect things too much other than maybe add the Rangers into the mix if they miss out on Hamilton and Justin Upton. What it could really affect is the Mariners interest as if they lose out on Hamilton they could intensify their efforts considerably to get Swisher. This one is going to be interesting to follow, but the Indians should be in on him until the very end. Ultimately, as it always does, it will come down to a decision from the player on where he wants to play because as we have seen with the Indians this offseason, sometimes offering the most money doesn’t mean everything to the player.

- As for Youkilis, this is a situation that you would think would be resolved very soon, possibly sometime today or by Monday morning if he wants to take the weekend to think about it. Pretty much the industry consensus has it as being down to a two team race between the Yankees and Indians to sign him. The Yankees are offering him a one year $12 million deal, and the Indians are reportedly offering him a two year $18 million deal. Ultimately his choice will come down to whether he wants to win and take more money for one year to re-establish his value to get a better contract next offseason, or if he wants more security with a longer contract for more total money and maybe not have a chance to win but go to a situation he would be much more comfortable in than in New York and play for his former manager Terry Francona.

- On the Cabrera trade front, this is something that should continue to be fluid as the Indians shop him around to teams this offseason. There is obviously a lot of interest from the Diamondbacks. I don’t care what their GM says about wanting a shortstop with more than two years control, that is simply nothing more than GM speak. You don’t waste two weeks working hard on a deal for Cabrera if you seriously would not take a guy with only two years of control. But the Indians have talked to other teams about Cabrera, and there are a lot of deals they are considering that have not even hit the rumor mill. The Indians may not have been able to seal the deal on a Cabrera trade in Nashville, but the foundation has been more than set to deal him, and deal him soon. They know he is their best chance to get a young difference maker for the starting rotation, maybe two difference makers, and it looks like they have passed the point of no return and will trade him at some point this offseason. There was thought that momentum was being gained where he would be dealt before the end of the meetings, but with Zach Greinke and Hamilton holding up the market, any trades involving Upton and Cabrera have pretty much been put on standby as so many of the teams that want Upton and Cabrera are affected by what happens with Greinke and Hamilton.

- It is important to note that the offseason is not a failure because the Indians did not make a deal at the winter meetings. If so, then about 25 other teams would be considered failures too as this was one of the least active winter meetings in some time as far as done deals go. What this means is a lot of deals could be coming in the next seven to ten days, and I would expect the Indians to be at the center of a lot those deals. They may lose out on a few more free agents, but it looks like they are committed to spend some money and get someone, and they also look pretty committed to trading Cabrera. It is disappointing that the Indians were unable to make some news by making a big deal at the winter meetings, and I am sure they are too, but winter meetings or not the process moves on and continues and we are going to continue to see the rumors fly the next few weeks as teams and players look to get deals done before Christmas.

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

December 8, 2012 - 12:58 PM EST
I would think the Indians could have offered more than the D-backs for McCarthy, but if made it clear he wasn't coming to Cleveland, nothing they could do I guess.

MC, I believe with Laroche, he's just very likely to resign with Washington. Myers, Liriano to me fall into the category of non-upgrades. Especially Liriano, at that point why not bring back Hernandez? Either might be useful, but might also be a horror show. Jackson commands more than the $18 million for Youk. I would love to see them get Swisher, but yeah,Ross is fine. I would prefer Swisher, 30 points of OPS is substantial, but so is the likelihood that they will be outbid.
December 8, 2012 - 10:41 AM EST
If anyone thinks that McCarthy signed with the DBacks for 2 years $15 million and the Indians did not talk to him, I'm not sure what to say. His market was never made public, simply because his agent did not say much of anything to reporters, but also he was pretty directed from what I heard to stay on the west coast. The Indians did check in, as they did on Blanton and others that have already signed, but not every player works out. It always comes down to signing preference.

I'd be fine with Cody Ross, but I prefer Swisher over him. Ross has been a solid player, but I don't think he has been near the consistent player over a long period of time and as impactful as Swisher. Since 2006 when Ross became a regular, he is a 10.4 WAR player in those 7 seasons from 2006-2012. Swisher is a 16.9 WAR players in those 7 seasons. Just a better player. I have no problem with Ross as a fallback, but if given the option to sign one or the other, I go with Swisher.
December 8, 2012 - 4:07 AM EST
I keep seeing guys ask who the indians should spend money on instead of swisher or youk.

Nick Swisher 537 at bats:
hr rbi R BB K SB CS avg Obp slg ops
24 93 75 77 141 2 3 .272 .364 .473 .837

Cody Ross 476 at bats:
22 81 70 42 129 2 3 .267 .326 .481 .807

I do like Nick Swisher and he is a switch hitter, but cody ross is right handed and has comparable numbers. He should get a contract in line with what Ryan Ludwick got. Ludwick had a little bit better numbers, but is 2 years older. If it will take 4 and 50 to get Swisher, getting ross for 2 or 3 yrs at 7-8 mil a yr seems like a much better value.

How about LaRoche. 571 abs
33 100 76 67 138 1 1 .271 .343 .510 .853

He actually has better numbers than swisher and would only cost a 3 year deal, with reports he may have to settle for 2 years.
Adam is left handed, but if ross were to replace damon in left and hafter is replaced with a right handed dh, then having a lefty at 1st doesn't make the indians nearly as lefty heavy as last year. LaRoche is also one of the top defensive 1st baseman in the game.

Other good options for 9 mil, instead of youk, could be Joe Saunders, Brett Myers, or edwin Jackson. To a lesser extent maybe Franky Liriano. I don't love any of those pitchers and Jackson might be closer to 14 per, but all of them would be improvements over the current crop of slop the Tribe has to roll out in the middle to back of the rotation.
December 7, 2012 - 6:14 PM EST
If the D-back just signed Brandon McCarthy for 2 years and $15 million, why the heck didn't the Indians just go after him? I know he was hit in the head and all, but when he's been healthy he's been a front of the rotation pitcher. Forget what I said about Youkilis, McCarthy at 2/17 would've been a nice upgrade, some health risk, but same goes for Youkilis.
December 7, 2012 - 2:50 PM EST
Tony, unless Choo has a massive year, those contract numbers you're throwing out look way high. Choo, by age and the quality of his play, is pretty clearly past his prime already. Swisher has been better than Choo, and is only like 8 months older than what Choo will be when he hits free agency. I'm sure Boras dreams of $90 million, as he does with Bourn, but unless Choo has a monster year, I would think 4/55-65 would be about right. It's a little premature of course, because Choo COULD have a monster year. But he's going to be 31, and his defense and ability to hit lefties are already going south, and quickly. So he could also hit .250 with 15 HRs. I think the Indians will probably be able to afford Choo, it would be more a matter of, there will probably be better options that don't require as much money, and Choo doesn't like Cleveland. A team would have to be out of their minds to pay Choo $15 million/year when he's 36 and up, and so far no one has done anything equivalent crazy this year with Bourn, Swisher or Hamilton this year.

I don't know how anyone can think signing Swisher and Youkilis would be bad. If they picked up those 2 and kept Cabrera, they would have a deeper lineup than anyone in the Central. If Victor's back at full power, the Tigers might still be better overall, but they have a lot of weak links. If I were to chart an ideal offseason, it would be signing Youkilis and Swisher, and trading Cabrera, Perez and a prospect for Bauer and someone like Mike Olt. If they could pull that off, they'd be well positioned now and in the future, with some rotation questions, but also a lot of upside, a lineup with few holes that's locked in for the next 2-3 years, and still have some money to spend next year to either re-sign or replace Choo.
December 7, 2012 - 1:51 PM EST
Devin, be honest now. You'll love the guy in Cleveland haha. Youkilis and Swisher are those guys you absolutely hate when they are on other teams, but you freaking love them when they are on your team. I do have to say I disagree with many on Youkilis being garbage. He'd help this team, even if he is a shell of his former self. He'd still be productive and add some much needed veteran presence to a lineup in need of it. And really, if you don't want to spend 2/18 on him, then who do you want to spend it on? The guys the Indians can sign will ALWAYS have warts since they can't get the mega guys. So when you are handing out 2-4 year deals for 7-10M, the likes of Victorino, Youkilis, and Willingham are guys you are gonna get. Hindsight is 20/20 on Willingham, but there were concerns about his health and future last offseason too, and I am sure had the Indians signed him a lot of people would have wondered why they would spend 3/21 on such a guy.;)
December 7, 2012 - 1:22 PM EST
I have to say... from a numbers standpoint, I am all for Swisher. But I have spent so many years hating the guy (and Youkilis, too, for that matter), it's a bit of a tough pill to swallow... and then you have to go and post THAT picture of Swisher? God... let's put a clause in his contract to keep him from making faces like that. Please.
December 7, 2012 - 1:00 PM EST
Yeah, I'd gladly spend 2/18 on a YOukilis than go another year of spending 1/3 on a guy like Kotchman. Because if they don't go out and sign a Youkilis and Swisher, those are the kinds of deals they would normally sign this offseason. As much as we want them to rebuild and go with all youth, they simply are not going to do it and they will still sign free agents that take away playing time. Problem is the youth ready to play at the big league level is not very good and has been overvalued by a lot of people, so they are looking to fill in with some free agents and make some key trades to get some much needed pitching help.

As for Choo, I don't see him getting anywhere close to 4/64 next offseason. It is going upwards of that, more like 5-6 years and close to 90-100 million. Remember, it is Boras, and Choo could be one of the prime free agents next offseason hitting the prime of his career.
December 7, 2012 - 12:48 PM EST
I really like Swisher, but if we are going to offer him 4/55 or something along those lines, I'd almost try to save that money for Choo next offseason if we hang on to him all year. It should not cost much more than that to to resign him. Maybe 4 years, 64 mil.
December 7, 2012 - 12:26 PM EST
blowing $8m or $9m on Youklis makes zero sense. Dellucci part 2

off season may not be a failure, but the front office has proved time an time again that they are.
December 7, 2012 - 12:13 PM EST
I think Youkilis 2/$18 is fine. I don't get a lot of fans who are suddenly concerned about Dolan's money, and complaining about signing bloated free agent contracts. Youkilis is the best option and fills a crucial need - 1b. He doesn't need to bounce back to be worth it, if he can put up the performance he did in Chicago, he's well worth that money. If you don't want to spend $9 million on Youk, who do you want to spend it on? $9 million doesn't upgrade the rotation like Youkilis upgrades 1b. Is a $9 million pitcher going to be a significant upgrade over, say, Kluber? Not necessarily, but Youk is definitely an upgrade over Canzler, or whatever the alternative would be. Or you prefer ownership to just pocket that cash?

Swisher, I think will be a tough sign, though I think it would be wrong to think the Indians can't go toe-to-toe with the Phillies in terms of $. The Phillies don't have a huge budget, because they already have a bloated payroll, with a lot of money locked into underperforming/injured players like Utley and Howard. And Seattle might sign Josh Hamilton, and aren't necessarily a more attractive team than Cleveland. I'm surprised more teams aren't interested in Swisher though (I do think ultimately he'll be this year's Beltran, and Ross their Willingham who they could've had if they'd aggressively targeted him instead. Ross is not as sexy of a pickup, but is a decent player)

A lineup that adds Swisher and Youk can stomach the loss of Asdrubal, Aviles is at least a halfway decent replacement. If they trade Asdrubal for a pitcher, then that means they don't need to spend money on one of those. I don't know that Bauer is the guy to target, I think Antonetti is right not to do that deal straight up. Too many questions about him and his arm. If they can get Bauer and the other prospect they want, then absolutely. It's not like they MUST trade Asdrubal ... though I think any shot at signing Swisher and Youkilis would require moving Asdrubal or Chris Perez.

December 7, 2012 - 11:06 AM EST
I agree Dennis, I believe the Indians are being used to drive up the price. $$ now indicated are more than I think they are worth. I understand overpaying for some players because we have to, but only if winning is a good option. I can't see them making the playoffs next year, so maybe they should emphasize getting in some younger players and look at 2014 as being a more attainable target to compete.
December 7, 2012 - 10:56 AM EST
I agree not getting a getting a deal done is does not make the winter meeting a failure, just a little disappointing. More and more it looks like player agents are using the Indians to get more money for their clients from other teams.
December 7, 2012 - 10:48 AM EST
I would think it would be highly unlikely that we could sign both Swisher and Youkilis. However, it's time to dream in the off season. If we could sign both, I would think that frees up Choo for a deal with maybe the Yankees. (Brett Gardner or Dante Bichette, Jr.?)

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