Cleveland Indians: Swisher, Bourn Keeping Indians from Top Free Agents

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May 15, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (33) bats during the game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (33) bats during the game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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While fans want the Cleveland Indians to sign a major free agent, past deals involving Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn may be haunting the front office.

The ill-effects of the signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn will forever be in the minds of Cleveland Indians fans. Even though the two’s lack of production for the team hurt at the time, what the high-dollar signings have done to the Indians long-term is arguably worse.

The Indians have been linked to several high-profile free agents for the better part of a month, but due to lack of agreement on contract length, the Indians have looked like long-shots as a landing spot for those players.

The four-year contracts that Swisher and Bourn received in 2013 were uncharacteristic for the Indians due to financial limitations. However, the signings signaled a time of change for Cleveland, especially after their playoff appearance in 2013.

Unfortunately, the Swisher and Bourn signings soured quickly and have hindered the already small-market Indians even further. While it is easy to see how the Indians have been financially hurt by the two signings and subsequent lack of production and trading of the two former All-Stars, the negative effects go even further.

The Indians have talked to the camps of free agent power hitters Mike Napoli, Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo, but for a number of reasons, deals have not gotten done. One of the more prominent reasons is because the Indians are not interested in offering long-term contracts.

It was noted by Jordan Bastian that the Indians and Napoli had likely agreed on a salary, but Napoli preferred a two or three-year contract, while the Indians only wanted to offer a one-year deal. It seems that the case is similar with Encarnacion.

While news of talks between the Indians and Trumbo has been far more limited, it is likely that the same is true.

The failures of the Swisher and Bourn signings are not helping the Indians pull the trigger on any of these free agents. Since the Indians are still paying Chris Johnson – who they received in a trade for Swisher and Bourn in 2015 – they do not want to commit to a veteran bat long-term in order to avoid a similar situation.

The Indians have had to pay Swisher, Bourn and Johnson for service time on other teams (or no team at all) over the span of two years, including $9 million to Johnson in 2017. They certainly do not want to end up in a situation like this again.

This has hurt the Indians in other areas besides the first base/DH market, as the $9 million could have also been used to sign a bullpen arm or other player.

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After the World Series run of 2016, many thought that this could be the year the Indians sign a top-tier free agent. But, the Swisher and Bourn signings have again held the Indians back.

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