Nick Swisher is underrated and Nick Swisher is now a Cleveland Indian. He’ll likely replace Shin Shoo Choo in right field, but can play left, first base, or DH over the course of his four year, $56 million deal (vesting option could take it to 5/70).
Most people figured Josh Hamilton would get more than Swisher on the free agent market, and we now know they are right. Hamilton got 5/125, which is more than 4/56. But that’s because Hamilton is overvalued and Swisher is undervalued. This is a great deal for the Indians. A great one.
Swisher is a young 32 and this deal will cover his age 32-35. Those are past his peak years, but not way into Alex Rodriguez territory. Swisher played his first full season in 2005 and was a full time player from 2006-2012. Over the last seven seasons, Swisher has never played fewer than 148 games. He’s never hit fewer than 22 homeruns. He’s had a walk rate under 12.3% once. He’s had an OBP under .355 once. He’s been an above average hitter and an average or better defender.
He’s been worth less than 3.0 WAR once in that span. All of these “onces” came during his worst season in 2008 where he was still an okay player.
Even if you figure he’ll decline into this thirties, he’s been a model player. Consistent power and patience mixed with solid defense. You can write him down for a 3 win season. He’s getting paid to be worth 2-3 wins over the next four season each, so if there is no salary inflation, he should be worth it. But there will be inflation, so he’s a steal.
Also, at $14 million a season, the risk isn’t so high that he’ll fall off the table and drag the team with him because he doesn’t have that $25 million price tag of Hamilton.
Swisher is essentially provides consistent, reliable production at the level that Hamilton averages out to. He’s a 3-4 win player with power. That’s what Hamilton is, but Hamilton has the amazing ceiling and flashes of brilliance mixed with the terrible lows.
With no inflation, Swisher needs to accumulate 11-12 wins to earn his deal. Hamilton needs to accumulate 25 wins. I’d much rather take the Swisher contract with a lower ceiling than the Hamilton contract with the bottomless-pit-like floor.
The Indians are a small market club and have a lot of work to do to build a winner. But in the weak AL Central, contention is probably not too far off. They have a solid young infield and catcher and an outfield that is serviceable. One more good bat and some rotation upgrades could get the Tribe near the top. Swisher is a good step in the right direction.
It will take some luck for the Indians to play with the Tigers in 2013, but anything can happen. Nick Swisher is a reliable player at a good price and he’s a fun loving guy who went to school at Ohio State. He seems like a natural fit for the Indians. He’d have a been a great fit for a lot of teams. It’s a little surprising a bigger market club didn’t offer more money, but fans in northeast Ohio will be glad they didn’t.