There will undoubtedly be a lot of analysis of the Indians’ recent signing of Nick Swisher; the scrutiny will likely last for several seasons. ESPN’s Keith Law, however, provides instant discussion surrounding the market value of the $56 million deal as well as the team which will be cutting the check.
Given the state of the free-agent market this winter, it’s not surprising that Nick Swisher would get a four-year deal or an annual salary of $14 million, with a vesting option for a fifth season at the same rate. The surprise is that the contract came from a second-division club in Cleveland that operates with one of the game’s lowest payrolls and doesn’t appear to have significant hopes of playoff contention for at least two more years.
Swisher’s approach at the plate and ability to hit from both sides of the plate has led to strong OBPs throughout his career, and that combined with above-average power and average defense in right have made him a valuable and perhaps even underrated player, especially since he arrived in the Bronx. [...]
What I don’t get is the logic of a below-.500 team giving a four-year contract to a corner outfielder who is entering his age-32 season. Cleveland lost 94 games in 2012 and had the second-worst run differential in the majors; prior to the Swisher signing, its only significant move of the offseason was trading Choo for Trevor Bauer, a great deal for the long term, but hardly enough to make the team a contender in 2013 or 2014.
Law speculates that this signing may be asset-based in the way that Swisher’s value to the Indians may be in the form of a tradable commodity after this coming season. Coupling his production with the rapidly rising costs of free agents and the very thin free agent class of 2013, and the Tribe front office may very well be outsmarting everyone who wants to focus on the length and total dollar amount of the deal.
It’s an amount that will make Swisher the highest-paid Indian ever. But it’s an amount that Chris Antonetti and company may very well flip for something better (and younger) in a years time.
[Related: The Indians’ offseason hunt for a veteran starting pitcher]