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Terrerobytes: Indians continue transformation with Swisher signing

Cleveland's lineup will be more balanced, but more prone to strikeouts.

Jason Miller

The Cleveland Indians opened their bank vault on Saturday, awarding their largest-ever free agent contract to a player some of you may be familiar with, Nick Swisher.

Swisher succumbed to the allure of his name on the Progressive Field scoreboard, signing a four-year, $56 million contract with a $14 million vesting option for 2017. Swisher won't have to clear that high of a bar to push his contract up to $70 million -- 550 plate appearances in 2016 and passing a physical afterward, requirements Swisher has met in each of the last seven seasons.

The Indians have now turned over three positions this offseason, leaving them with a drastically different lineup:

  • C: Carlos Santana
  • 1B: Mark Reynolds
  • 2B: Jason Kipnis
  • 3B: Lonnie Chisenhall
  • SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
  • LF: Michael Brantley
  • CF: Drew Stubbs
  • RF: Nick Swisher

Here's something that sticks out: Swisher, who has averaged 133 strikeouts a year since the White Sox traded him, is the best contact hitter of the newest additions. Reynolds set the single-season record with 223 strikeouts in 2009, and has averaged 197 over the last four years. Stubbs has averaged 180 strikeouts over his three years as a starter.

This might not be a bad play, since the Indians finished with the third-lowest strikeout total in the AL, but the second-fewest runs. The moves also alter the handedness balance -- Stubbs and Reynolds are both righties, and the switch-hitting Swisher replaces left-handed Shin-Soo Choo, so the Indians are a good bet to improve their 18-35 record against left-handed pitching in 2012.

There's a chance these changes hurt as much as they help, but the Sox and other AL Central teams will have to work harder to revise their scouting reports this year.


Tyler Flowers is confident about his ability to give the Sox an everyday catcher after A.J. Pierzynski signed with the Rangers. That's not really news, because it would be far more novel if he wasn't. The update on the hairline fracture in his list tells us what we might not know -- although it caused him to delay his weight training by a week, his hitting and throwing programs started on time, and he's doing it without "a wink of pain."

The responses are generally ones you'd expect, but this quote from Gordon Beckham stands out:

"Detroit has gotten better, and I really think Kansas City got relevant with that trade," said Beckham, who mentioned not only the addition of Shields, but Wade Davis in the Tampa Bay trade as important for the Royals. "Maybe now that they technically got relevant, we'll play them a little better."