The Indians front office must have anticipated a Browns’ beatdown in Denver, so they brightened the season for all Cleveland sports fans by announcing they inked free agent OF/1B Nick Swisher to a four-year contract.
The Tribe offense is now better than it was last season with the addition of perhaps the second best hitter on the free agent market.
Swisher isn’t a superstar, but he is a productive, consistent, durable switch-hitter who fits nicely into the 2013 Indians’ batting order.
Since becoming a regular in 2005 with the Oakland A’s, the former Ohio State player has hit at least 21 HR and knocked in 69 runs in every season since. He does strike out a lot, but he also walks, drawing at least 77 free passes in six of the last seven years, and he has a lifetime on-base percentage of .361.
In fact, the best place for Swisher in the Indians’ batting order might just be the #2 spot, where he can draw walks and drive the ball to get rallies going.
As mentioned, he’s a switch-hitter and along with the acquisitions of Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs, the Indians have ended their experiment to have an all left-handed batting order.
The offense should be better next season because GM Chris Antonetti has improved three positions in the lineup. Although we have reservations about Reynolds and his strikeouts and ability to hit outside of Arizona, he is an upgrade over Casey Kotchman with the bat. Also, Lonnie Chisenhall should improve upon Jack Hannahan’s batting numbers at third base.
And Stubbs, even though he had a terrible season at the plate for the Reds in 2012, is better than the mishmash the Tribe played in LF last year. And he adds speed and improved defense.
Swisher at the least will make up for Shin-Soo Choo’s numbers in RF, and he will be better than Choo against left-handed pitchers. Here’s the lineup as we see it:
LF Michael Brantley
RF Nick Swisher
2B Jason Kipnis
C Carlos Santana
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Mark Reynolds
3B Lonnie Chisenhall
CF Drew Stubbs
Because of the amount of strikeouts for Reynolds and Stubbs, they would be best served hitting in the bottom third of the order. And we have always thought Cabrera would be better suited for the fifth spot in the order. Also, the guess here is new skipper Terry Francona will have a wonderful effect on the shortstop’s career.
And don’t forget, the GM added a solid bat for the bench in utility man Mike Aviles, who can be very productive in a limited role, say around 350-400 at bats per season.
Now, Antonetti needs to work on the pitching staff, which was the worst in the AL last season. He added a potential top of the rotation guy in Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco will also return following Tommy John surgery. Still, no team wants to depend on a bounce back season by Justin Masterson, a rookie, and a guy coming back from an injury to anchor the starting rotation.
That means another reliable starter is needed, and perhaps closer Chris Perez will be the bait.
Getting another arm would move Ubaldo Jimenez into the fifth spot in the rotation, and don’t forget about Zack McAllister, who might have been the Indians’ most reliable arm at the end of the season.
In fact, Jimenez might even be moved so Cleveland can get out from under the almost $6 million owed to him next season.
After a couple of years of relative inactivity, you have to give props to Antonetti for finally going out and improving this baseball team. While there is some work to do, getting Swisher and Bauer give Tribe fans a good foundation for hope when spring training starts in about six weeks.