The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

December 23, 2012

W.Va. native Swisher, Cleveland agree to deal

CLEVELAND — The Indians’ pitch to bring Nick Swisher “home” worked.

Two people familiar with the negotiations said Swisher has agreed to a $56 million, four-year contract with the Indians, who used the free agent outfielder’s deep Ohio connections to convince him to join the club. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because Swisher must take a physical before the deal can be finalized. The Indians are expected to announce Swisher’s signing after Christmas, one of the people said.

The Indians will not comment until Swisher completes his physical.

“Wow! What a crazy few weeks,” Swisher said on Twitter. “Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I’m coming home!”

Swisher’s deal includes a $14 million option for 2017 that could become guaranteed based on plate appearances the previous year.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was excited about the club’s newest addition.

“Welcome to the Tribe (at)nickswisher, pumped to get ya,” Kipnis tweeted.

The 32-year-old Swisher, a native of Parkersburg, spent the last four seasons with the New York Yankees, taking advantage of the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. A switch-hitter, Swisher hit .272 this season with 24 homers and 93 RBIs.

Swisher will fill an outfield hole for the Indians, who traded Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. Swisher will play right, with recently acquired Drew Stubbs likely taking over in center with Michael Brantley shifting from center to left field.

Swisher, who was born in Columbus and played at Ohio State, visited the Indians earlier in the week. The club used Swisher’s ties with the Buckeyes to convince him to join a team that won just 68 games last season following an historic collapse in August.

During his tour of Progressive Field, Swisher watched a video presentation on the stadium’s giant scoreboard that featured messages from current Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and basketball coach Thad Matta, who urged him to sign with the Indians. Later, Swisher and his wife, actress JoAnna Garcia, had lunch with former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who was at the school when Swisher played there.

Swisher’s signing is a significant win for the Indians, who have been in the market for an outfielder throughout the offseason. During the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., they offered Shane Victorino a $44 million, four-year contract before he agreed to a $39 million, three-year deal with Boston.

Seattle, Texas and Boston were believed to be interested in Swisher, an All-Star in 2010 who was regarded as the second-best free agent hitter this offseason behind Josh Hamilton. The Indians have been desperate to add power and Swisher, who has hit at least 22 homers in each of the past seven seasons, will bolster the middle of new manager Terry Francona’s lineup.

Swisher’s value may have been damaged by several poor postseasons with the Yankees. He batted .162 in the postseason for New York with seven RBIs and 38 strikeouts in 130 at-bats.

Swisher spent four seasons with Oakland and one with the Chicago White Sox before joining the Yankees.

The Indians will lose their second-round pick in next year’s amateur draft as compensation for signing Swisher, and the Yankees will get an extra selection following the first round.

It’s been a busy offseason for Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, who is trying to fix a team that has lost at least 93 games in three of the past four seasons.

Antonetti fired manager Manny Acta and replaced him with Francona, the former Boston manager who has spent the past few weeks meeting with his new players. Antonetti also signed free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds and was part of a three-team, nine-player deal that sent Choo to the Reds for Stubbs and brought Cleveland prized pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from Arizona.

The signing of Swisher will take some pressure of Antonetti, who has been criticized by fans for several moves in recent years.

His agreement was first reported by the New York Daily News.

Now that they’ve landed Swisher, the Indians are expected to focus on improving their starting pitching. The club agreed to terms with left-hander Scott Kazmir to a minor league deal this week, pending a physical. The Indians still need to add a designated hitter and there remains interest in Travis Hafner, who was limited to just 66 games last season because of injuries and remains an unsigned free agent.

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