Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Around the division: Cleveland Indians

Nick Swisher is coming off four
productive seasons as the Yankees
right fielder -- and four seasons
of poor hitting in the playoffs.
The Cleveland Indians were about as bad as the Minnesota Twins last year -- 68-94 losses, two games ahead of Minnesota in the standings, but with stats that, at least according to Bill James' Pythagorean Theorum, should have put them two games behind the Twins.

Their biggest move of this offseason has been a complex three-way trade (involving the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks) highlighted for the Tribe by the loss outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and the acquisition of pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. They then plugged Choo's spot by signing free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher.

The trade itself is fascinating on several levels. Take Bauer, for example. He was the third overall pick in the loaded 2011 draft. He made it to the majors last season (four starts, which didn't go well). And the D'backs have soured on him. Bauer, 'tis said, insists on following his own training regimen and on calling his own game. Horrors.

Now, I'm not someone who has to deal with Bauer, and maybe he's an insubordinate jerk and impossible to get along with. He's also talented, and as the Twins can attest, true aces don't fall out of trees. I suspect that Bauer's adherence to long-toss and his ideas about what pitches to throw when are things the Diamondbacks would tolerate from a veteran but not a minor-leaguer, even one with his collegiate accomplishments.

Picking up Bauer has a good chance to be a real plus for the Indians.

Then there's Cincy's plans for Choo. Choo, 30, has been a right fielder, and not a notably effective one defensively. But the Reds -- who also sent center fielder Drew Stubbs to Cleveland in the trade -- apparently have him ticketed for center. An outfield of Ryan Ludwick, Choo and Jay Bruce should be prolific at the plate, but it's not likely to do the Reds pitchers many favors.

Swisher, who figures to fill Choo's spot in right (or could be installed at first base), may be testimony to what can happen when a corner outfielder is stretched out of his comfort zone. In his one season with the Chicago White Sox, Swisher played 70 games in center -- and had easily his worst season.

Swisher and Choo are roughly equivalent players. Swisher is a couple years older and pricier -- Choo is still in his arbitration years -- so one would prefer Choo. But for the difference, the Indians have added a potential ace and a usable center fielder.


  1. Swisher will soon be playing at home (Ohio kid) which is really a blessing for any professional athlete. I suspect that was a consideration in his signing with the Indians.

  2. Actually, Swisher played a lot of center field for the A's. He was largely the regular center fielder when he first came up. I don't know why he had a bad year for the White Sox, but Yankee Stadium was pretty much built for the kind of hitter Swisher is. I wouldn't be surprised if his numbers dip a bit for the Indians.