Nick Swisher Rumors

Trade Notes: Tulo, Swihart, Hamels, Marrero, Samardzija, Swisher, Upton

Here are the latest pieces of information on the trade front from the morning’s action at the Winter Meetings:

  • The Rockies approached the Mets today to gauge interest in discussing star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Martino’s sources tell him a deal that would send Tulowitzki to the Mets is “not happening.” On the other hand, Colorado’s actions obviously suggest that there is at least some possibility that the club would consider dealing him.
  • The Phillies would not demand that the Red Sox include top catching prospect Blake Swihart in a deal involving Cole Hamels, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports on Twitter.
  • Were the Red Sox to make a push for Jeff Samardzija, however, the Athletics would insist on the inclusion of shortstop prospect Deven Marrero, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets.
  • Nick Swisher of the Indians is available in trade, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, but there has been minimal interest to date.
  • The Mariners could “circle back” to the Braves regarding Justin Upton if the team does not land free agent Melky Cabrera, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But Seattle is highly unlikely to sacrifice one of its prized young arms in a deal for Upton, he adds.

Indians Notes: Swisher, Bourn, Masterson, Hamels

MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian and Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group cleared out their inbox this weekend answering readers’ questions about possible moves for the Indians this offseason. Here are the highlights:

  • Bastian downplays a Nick Swisher-Ubaldo Jimenez swap of bad contracts. Cleveland could afford the move (Jimenez is due $38.75MM through 2017 while Swisher is owed $30MM through 2016 with a 2017 vesting option worth $14MM), but Bastian feels the odds of Swisher rebounding in 2015 is a better bet than three years of Jimenez.
  • If the Indians are looking to shed a bad contract, Hoynes thinks Michael Bourn would be easier to trade, but adds that doesn’t mean Cleveland wants to deal him.
  • Bastian and Hoynes both agree the Indians have interest in Justin Masterson on a one-year pillow contract, but feel the right-hander will find a multi-year pact elsewhere.
  • Trading for Cole Hamels is an interesting thought, according to Bastian, because the left-hander is cheaper ($90MM through 2018) than the top free agent rotation arms on the market and the Indians have the type of prospects the Phillies covet. Ultimately, though, Bastian sees Hamels’ annual salary and the potential prospects lost will be too steep of a price for the franchise to pay.
  • While noting manager Terry Francona’s penchant for strong bullpens, Hoynes doesn’t see the Indians investing in any of the high profile free agent relievers, especially with Zach McAllister waiting in the wings.
  • Does Francona’s new contract extension contain the same opt-out clause allowing him to leave if President Mark Shapiro or GM Chris Antonetti are fired? Antonetti did not provide details when asked that question, but Hoynes imagines the opt-out provision is included in the extension.
  • Bastian expects right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer to have break out seasons for the Indians in 2015.

Central Notes: Swisher, Hunter, Reds, Blanco

Nick Swisher‘s contract with the Indians now fits on a long list of contracts teams would love to unload, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Swisher hasn’t been productive in his contract so far and he has two years and $30MM left, plus a vesting option for 2017. Pluto guesses that Swisher will end up back in Cleveland in 2015 despite recent trade rumors. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • GM Walt Jocketty says the Reds aren’t really close” on any significant moves, the Enquirer’s John Fay reports. Jocketty also would not confirm whether the club has interest in free agent outfielder Torii Hunter, the way he did with Nori Aoki and Michael Morse. “I don’t want to got into that,” says Jocketty. “When I talked about Aoki, I got hounded by the media. Let’s put this way: We’re talking to a lot of agents, and (Hunter) is a pretty good player.” The Blue Jays, Royals, Twins and other teams have recently been connected to Hunter.
  • The Cubs have hired Henry Blanco away from the Diamondbacks, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Blanco will serve as the quality assurance coach under new manager Joe Maddon. Blanco, of course, was a catcher for the Cubs from 2005 through 2008. He joined with the Diamondbacks after retiring as a player prior to the 2014 season.


Indians Exploring Nick Swisher Trades

The Indians are exploring a number of trade possibilities, including scenarios in which they could move Nick Swisher and his remaining $30MM for another player with an inflated contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (All Twitter links).

Rosenthal lists names like B.J. Upton ($46.35MM through 2017), Ubaldo Jimenez ($38.75MM through 2017) and Ryan Howard ($60MM through 2016) as examples of other inflated contracts while being careful to note that the Indians aren’t necessarily interested in anyone from that grouping. Other players on bloated contracts include Edwin Jackson ($22MM through 2016), John Danks ($28.5MM through 2016), Cody Ross ($10.5MM through 2015) and Ricky Nolasco ($37MM through 2017), to say nothing of Dodgers outfielders Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier (though that duo is a particularly difficult fit in Cleveland).

Swisher, signed to a four-year, $56MM contract heading into the 2013 season, played well in his inaugural campaign in his home state of Ohio, hitting .246/.321/.423 with 22 homers. However, his offense fell off a cliff in 2014, as he batted just .208/.278/.331 while his strikeout rate soared to a career-worst 27.7 percent and his walk rate dropped to a career-worst nine percent.

As I explained in my Indians Offseason Outlook, Cleveland has a bit of financial flexibility heading into 2015, but that flexibility will be gone by 2016 due to arbitration raises to Corey Kluber, Cody Allen and Carlos Carrasco as well as contractual salary increases to the likes of Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley. Moving Swisher or Michael Bourn, who is owed $27.5MM over the next two seasons and has also declined, would alleviate that pressure and give the Indians a much more favorable long-term outlook. One option could be to pay a large chunk of Swisher’s 2015 salary, when the team has more payroll flexibility, while only absorbing a small chunk of his 2016 salary (or do the same with Bourn). By doing so, they could still eat around half of his remaining salary but create more 2016 flexibility to accommodate an increasingly expensive core.


AL Notes: Rays, Indians, Buehrle, Rangers

In the wake of yesterday’s report Rays ownership has discussed relocating the franchise to Montreal, Commissioner Bud Selig paused and then declined to answer whether Tampa Bay is a viable major league market, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Selig did say, however, the team needs a replacement for Tropicana Field. “The team has to have a ballpark that makes them competitive,” the commissioner said before Game Four of the World Series. “It doesn’t produce the kind of revenue they need.

In other news involving the Rays and the American League:

  • Change is coming to the Rays and the front office and players alike don’t see it as a negative, writes the Tampa Tribune’s Roger Mooney. “Whoever we bring in here, they’re going to set the scheme and how they want to win games and be a successful organization,” said pitcher Alex Cobb. “When that trickles down to the players, all that is is us playing up to our capabilities, and that doesn’t matter who is in the dugout or the front office.” Mooney notes all coaches are under contract for 2015; but, if the new manager is from outside the organization, there may be changes to the staff.
  • In today’s mailbag, a reader proposed his Indians offseason plan to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer: trade Jason Kipnis and David Murphy for prospects to free up money, then use that money on Victor Martinez. Hoynes doesn’t see the Tribe trading Kipnis so soon after giving him a $50MM+ extension, despite his bad year. The reader’s ambitious plan also calls for Cleveland to have one of their young outfielders form a platoon with Nick Swisher and, given his $15MM salary, Hoynes believes the team wants to see him in the lineup every day.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe identified Mark Buehrle as a trade candidate earlier today and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets the Twins have long been admirers of the Blue Jays hurler. Still, his $19MM salary is too high.
  • If the Jon Daniels-Jeff Banister partnership works in Texas, it will continue a trend in the game of a college educated GM with no professional playing experience working with a baseball lifer as manager, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

AL Central Notes: Swisher, Rodon, Royals

The Indians have announced that 1B/DH Nick Swisher will be out for the next eight to ten weeks after having surgery on both knees. That would suggest he’s out for the rest of the season. Swisher was in the midst of a disappointing season in the second year of his $56MM deal with Cleveland, hitting .208/.278/.331 in 401 plate appearances. Here’s more from the AL Central.

  • GM Rick Hahn says the White Sox haven’t yet decided whether they’ll promote 2014 third overall draft pick Carlos Rodon once rosters expand in September, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. If they do promote him, they could use him as a starter. The White Sox recently promoted Rodon to Triple-A Charlotte after pitching well in four appearances for Class A+ Winston-Salem.
  • We still can’t get a clear read on the 2013 James Shields / Wil Myers trade between the Royals and the Rays because some of the secondary players involved haven’t yet reached their potential, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports writes. For example, the Rays received minor league infielder Patrick Leonard in the deal, and he’s currently hitting .293/.372/.470 in 476 plate appearances for Class A+ Charlotte (the Charlotte team based in Florida, not the Triple-A team mentioned above) as a 21-year-old. Also, 25-year-old Mike Montgomery, another Rays acquisition, has gradually improved at Triple-A.

East Links: Wheeler, Fernandez, Swisher, Red Sox

A collection of links pertaining to baseball's Eastern divisions…

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post praises the Mets for leaving top prospect in the minor leagues and questions why the Marlins have chosen to start Jose Fernandez's service clock early. Sherman argues that non-contenders should be more mindful of the financial rammifications — especially the Marlins, for whom money will likely continue to be an issue.
  • Nick Swisher told reporters (including Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger) that "it hurt" when the Yankees didn't make him an offer to return (beyond the one-year, $13.3MM qualifying offer to receive draft pick compensation). Swisher said he's no longer thinking about the Yankees and is focused on winning with the Indians, who have treated him "like a king" thus far.
  • Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino told Jerry Spar of WEEI that baseball is "fun again" in Boston. Lucchino also praised general manager Ben Cherington's work in last summer's trade with the Dodgers, noting that they would have been happy to receive just one of Allen Webster or Rubby De La Rosa but wound up with both.
  • In this week's Nationals mailbox, MLB.com's Bill Ladson writes that the team has given no thought to cutting ties with flamethrower Henry Rodriguez. Manager Davey Johnson loves Rodriguez's arm, according to Ladson, so the organization plans to stick with him.

AL Notes: Borbon, Hamilton, Yankees, Indians

Rangers outfielder Julio Borbon describes his future as "a real question mark," Evan Grant of DallasNews.com reports. Texas appears likely to trade Borbon or designate him for assignment, when they add starter Nick Tepesch to their active roster on Tuesday. If the Rangers designate Borbon for assignment, the Astros might claim him, Grant says. Borbon hit .304/.349/.433 for Triple-A Round Rock in 2012. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • Ranger-turned-Angel C.J. Wilson understands why Rangers fans weren't happy to see fellow former Ranger Josh Hamilton play in Arlington for the Angels this weekend, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer reports. "We're all baseball players," Wilson says. "It's not real life. Sports gives you something to cheer for or boo about. It's your choice. They're not going to cheer for him, obviously." Hamilton signed a five-year, $125MM contract with the Angels in December.
  • The upcoming Yankees-Indians series in Cleveland will be a reunion for both Nick Swisher and Travis Hafner, Zack Meisel of MLB.com reports. "Oh, man, that's going to be the jam," says Swisher, who left New York in the offseason and signed a four-year, $56MM contract with the Indians. Hafner signed a one-year, $2MM contract with the Yankees in February.

Indians Notes: CEO Explains Bourn, Swisher Signings

Indians CEO Paul Dolan explains his team's thought process following a 68-94 season in 2012 and says that a total rebuild was not an option, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. "None of us wanted to think about tearing it down. Our goal is to put together a team to win a World Series. Another goal is to avoid 20 years of losing, which some smaller-market teams have endured." The Indians did trade outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, but rather than also dealing veterans like Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez and Justin Masterson, the team spent heavily on free agents like Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Here are more notes from Pluto's interview with Dolan.

  • Dolan expresses "a high degree of confidence" in team president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti, even though the Indians haven't had a winning season since 2007.
  • Dolan also confirms that the Indians offered a four-year, $43MM deal to outfielder Shane Victorino, who ended up going to the Red Sox for three years and $39MM.
  • Dolan says he didn't want to worry much about the possibility of Bourn's four-year, $48MM deal turning out badly, but the Indians' history with long-term contracts gives him pause. "We've not had good luck with some of our longer deals," he says. That includes pacts with Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook and Kerry Wood.
  • Pluto notes that season-ticket sales are up since the signings of Bourn and Swisher, but Dolan says that the Indians "will lose money" in 2013. Dolan views the team's offseason spending splurge as an investment in its future.

Indians Sign Nick Swisher

The Indians announced that they've signed free agent outfielder Nick Swisher to a four-year contract. The agreement covers the 2013-16 seasons and includes a vesting option for 2017.

Swisher, an MVP Sports Group client, will earn at least $56MM before the contract expires. The $14MM vesting option in year five could boost the deal's overall value to $70MM. He'll make $11MM in 2013, $15MM for each of the 2014-16 seasons, and his $14MM 2017 option will vest if he has 550 plate appearances and passes his physical at the end of the 2016 season, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter links).

Nickswisher

The 32-year-old is coming off of yet another solid season in which he posted a .272/.364/.473 batting line with 24 home runs.  Swisher has been a consistent force at the plate for the Yankees over the past four seasons, posting a batting line of .268/.367/.483 with 105 homers across that span.

The veteran comes to Cleveland as the club's replacement in right field for Shin-Soo Choo.  The Tribe sent Choo to the Reds earlier this winter in a three-team deal that netted them right-handed pitchers Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, and center fielder Drew Stubbs.  The signing also means that Yankees will receive a compensatory draft pick as they extended the one-year, $13.3MM qualifying offer to Swisher earlier this offseason.

Swisher was said to have a four-year, $52MM offer on the table from Cleveland, but he ultimately got a little more out of General Manager Chris Antonetti & Co.  The switch-hitting outfielder reportedly preferred to play for the Dodgers, Angels, or Yankees, but he wasn't a fit for any of those teams given their outfield situations.  The Yankees also didn't seem to have much interest in working out a new deal with Swisher once he declined their qualifying offer.

One source indicated to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that the Red Sox were interested in signing Swisher but didn't want to give up their high second round pick to the Yankees.  It's possible that the draft pick compensation tied to Swisher hurt his value as he looked for a deal on the open market. Swisher ranked sixth on MLBTR's top 50 list of free agents this offseason.

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News first reported the agreement and its value (via Twitter). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post.