The Indians and Braves have completed a trade that will send Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to Atlanta in exchange for Chris Johnson, as first reported by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports and Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Atlanta will also receive more than $10 million in cash considerations in the deal, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
The sides discussed a swap of Swisher and Johnson in June, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, though talks were sidelined due to Swisher being placed on the disabled list with a knee issue. Both players were considered likely candidates to clear waivers due to their high salaries, opening the door for the teams to complete a waiver-wire deal.
Swisher, 34, has appeared in only 30 games for Cleveland this season, hitting .198/.261/.297 with two home runs and missing significant time due to injury. The outfielder is owed $15 million next season before a $14 million vesting option for 2017 kicks in, and will likely see time at first base for Atlanta with Nick Markakis covering right field.
Bourn, 32, returns to the Braves after appearing in 208 games for the club in 2011 and 2012 and being named an All-Star during a 2012 campaign in which he hit .274/.348/.391 with nine homers. The centerfielder has hit only .246/.313/.294 in 95 games with Cleveland this year, and is owed $14 million for next year with a $12 million vesting option for 2017 kicking in if he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2016.
Johnson, 30, has been the subject of trade rumors for months, as the Braves have been trying to rid themselves of his contract (guaranteed $17.5 million through 2018). The third baseman has hit only .235/.272/.320 in 56 games for the Braves this season, losing playing time to Juan Uribe and Adonis Garcia. Johnson will compete with Giovanny Urshela and Lonnie Chisenhall for time at third base with Cleveland, and also provides an option at first base behind Carlos Santana.
Although all three players have been productive in the past, this deal is all about swapping albatross contracts. Including the rest of this season, Swisher is owed about $20 million through next season and Bourn is owed about $18.5, while Johnson is due to earn roughly $19.5 million in guaranteed money through the 2017 season. In total, the Braves will pay up to $9 million in salary for Bourn and Swisher while knocking $9 million off the books for 2017, when they intend to be contenders. Cleveland gains $9 million in salary relief by adding Johnson in place of Bourn and Johnson.