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Cleveland Indians 2013 in Review: Nick Swisher, Bro-tastic

Our 2013 in Review series continues with the highest paid Indian, a player that came back “home.”

I see you there Bro ...
I see you there Bro ...
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Swisher

First Base, Right Field

Age: 33

Acquired: Free Agent, 1-3-2013

2013 Salary: $11.0M

2014 Contract Status: $15.0M (2015: $15.0M, 2016: $15.0M, 2017 $14.0M vested with 550 PA in 2016 and passes a physical)

The former Ohio State Buckeye began his career with the Athletics in 2004 after being their first round pick in 2002. After having a solid season in 2006 at 25, he signed a five year extension with a club option for 2012. He was dealt to the White Sox just prior to spring training of 2008, netting three prospects, including Gio Gonzalez. He struggled mightily in 2008 (219/332/410, 93 OPS+), so the White Sox cut bait and sent him to the Bronx. Naturally, he resurrected his career and after 2012, filed for free agency.

2013 in Review Hub: Your destination for Let's Go Tribe's look at key prospects and players from the Indians in 2013

In years past, he most likely would have gotten a fairly decent payday. But most recently, clubs have been "a bit" more judicious in doling out the huge paydays. And also unfortunately for Swisher, he also became a free agent the first offseason where teams would lose a draft pick if a qualifying offer was made. The Yankees did make the offer, he refused, and then had to play the waiting game.

Seattle was mentioned as a potential landing spot, as well as Boston and the Orioles, but Chris Antonetti pulled out quite a few stops in landing the former Buckeye. One trick was a lunch with former Buckeye football head coach Jim Tressel. The Tribe were in a better position than the other linked parties as they would not have to give up a first round pick as they were protected in the Top 10.

Swisher hit decently in April, notching a 265/386/410 slash. But he only cleared the fence twice with just 9 RBI from his cleanup position, with his best game coming in the 19-6 blowout win versus the Astros. It was reported that he was battling a sore right shoulder and he missed three games at the beginning of May. The rest seemed to do him good as over the next 17 games, he hit 286/375/603 with four bombs. But he needed another three game break and did so before the Red Sox series in Fenway.

The shoulder did not respond nearly as well during that short respite. From May 24 to June 15, he slashed 167/250/231 with just one homer, nine walks and 23 whiffs in 88 plate appearances. He aggravated the injury in that June 15 game against the Nationals, and there was talk of him heading to the DL. His injury indirectly led to John McDonald briefly being acquired in June.

He sat for six games this time but did avoid the DL. He played seven of the final eight games in June, but the power had not returned, 222/364/370, but his batting eye improved with six walks and just five strikeouts. He found a bit of a stride in July as he hit 284/376/420, with the splits pre and post All-Star break about even that month. He also had moved out of his cleanup spot as he started hitting second on July 22, during the Seattle series.

In July, it seemed he seemed to try and not do too much, instead settling for base hits, trading in his power stroke. In August his average slid back down, but he regained some of his power stroke, going 225/301/396 with five doubles, four deep flies and his best RBI month yet, 13.

In September, Swisher finally looked like the player that had been so consistent in years past (120 to 129 OPS+ in all four seasons in New York). He hit 263/353/515 with seven home runs, 17 RBI and his only steal of the season. He had his first multi-homer game of the season on September 15 in the 7-1 win over the White Sox. Plus, he just looked the bro he yearns to be.

Taken as whole, Swisher's season seemed to be a disappointment on the surface. He netted just a oWAR of 2.9, or $3.7M/oWAR. But, if you compare that to his four season average with the Yankees of 3.1 oWAR, and factor in that he was nursing a bad shoulder for 83% of the season, I can live that. Not to mention, he provided us with one of the best gifs of the season:



If you don't like the oWAR metric, we can look at RC (Runs Created) as well. In his four seasons in New York, he averaged 6.3 RC/Game. This year, it was down to 5.1, but again with a limiting shoulder injury. Not to mention the 117 OPS+ this year is not that far off his 124 OPS+ from his Yankee days too.

Going forward, I'd expect him to return close to his Yankees numbers, say 3.1 oWAR and maybe a 5.8 RC/game in 2014, a slight decrease in 2015 and 2016 and maybe a more severe drop in 2017, if he reaches that plate appearance threshold.

2011 30 NYY 150 635 526 81 137 30 0 23 85 2 2 95 125 .260 .374 .449 .822 120 236 18 5 1 8 6 *93/D
2012 31 NYY 148 624 537 75 146 36 0 24 93 2 3 77 141 .272 .364 .473 .837 125 254 9 4 1 5 2 *93D
2013 32 CLE 145 634 549 74 135 27 2 22 63 1 0 77 138 .246 .341 .423 .763 117 232 11 4 0 4 3 *39D
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/4/2013.