I like Nick Swisher as a player. I like Nick Swisher A LOT. His offensive skill set would have been great for the Tigers – better than even Torii Hunter’s – but the fact that he received a qualifying offer from the Yankees meant the team that signed him would give up their top pick in next year’s draft. The potential loss of a first-round pick, plus Swisher’s desire for a longer-term deal than the Tigers were likely willing to offer, ultimately made Swisher a poor fit in Detroit, but he’s a fairly good fit in Cleveland for these same reasons.
The Cleveland Indians weren’t very good last year. They were so not-good that “earned” a top-ten pick in next June’s draft, and top-ten picks are protected slots in these instances. So in order to sign Swisher, the Indians will need to surrender their second round pick. That’s still a fairly high pick, but expected draft value begins to decline sharply in the second round. Draft picks are always a crap shoot, especially once you’re out of the first round. So the Indians could afford to be more aggressive with their offer to Swisher knowing they wouldn’t have to give up their top pick as most teams would.
Swisher isn’t young, and the four-year deal will carry him through age 35, but he’s been a remarkably consistent player in his career. He’s typically a lock for an .830 OPS and three to four WAR; if he keeps up those numbers for the life of the contract, he’ll provide a decent bit of surplus value for the Tribe.
Offensively he’s basically what we hope Alex Avila will become: a high-walk, high-OBP guy (even though he strikes out a lot) with above average power. Swisher has shown a bit more power than Avila (his career ISO is equal to Avila’s ISO from his terrific 2011 season), but Avila may actually be a better OBP guy once all is said and done due to his predisposition toward higher BABIPs.
Cleveland is likely more than a year (or three) away from competing in the division, but Swisher is a better-than-average regular that will give them good value while they wait. And, if you combine this deal with the Shin-Soo Choo trade, they could be seen as trading Choo, a second round pick, and $10 million for Trevor Bauer and Swisher. That’s feels like a win for the Indians.