Christmas has come a few days early for Cleveland Indians fans, as the club has come to an agreement with free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher on a four-year, $56 million contract, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News:
BREAKING: Nick Swisher has agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal with the Indians. Vesting $14M option for a 5th year could make it $70M.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) December 23, 2012
The deal puts the 32-year-old behind only Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, and B.J. Upton in terms of money earned this offseason, and gives the Indians a starting right fielder through at least the 2016 season. The vesting option for the 2017 season will activate if he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2016 and passes a physical at the end of that season, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer.
Cleveland had been in hot pursuit of the veteran switch-hitter for weeks, pulling out the red carpet for Swisher on a visit to Progressive Field last week as they attempted to find a suitable replacement for Shin-Soo Choo in right field. Several other teams were pursuing Swisher as well, including the Red Sox, Orioles, Mariners, Phillies, and Rangers, but the former OSU Buckeye chose to come back to Ohio in the end.
Swisher was remarkably consistent during his four seasons with the Yankees. He hit .268/.367/.483 in his tenure with club -- never dipping below an OPS+ of 120 -- and averaged 26 home runs a year while posting solid defensive numbers. His addition gives the Tribe three switch-hitters in the heart of their line-up, with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Carlos Santana flanking the outfielder.
Because the New York Yankees made a qualifying offer to Swisher before he became a free agent, the Tribe will lose a second round pick (their top pick is protected) and the Bronx Bombers will receive a compensation pick between the first and second rounds of next year's draft.