Indians exploring trading Swisher

Ken Rosenthal of had a series of tweets on Tuesday, citing a source that indicated that the Indians are exploring a “wide range of options,” including potential trades for Nick Swisher in exchange for “another player with an inflated contract.”

This speaks to due diligence on the part of Cleveland, which inked the 33-year-old Swisher to a four-year contract worth $56 million prior to the 2013 season. Swisher performed admirably in the first year of the deal, but experienced an injury-plagued, career-worst season in 2014. In only 97 games, Swisher hit .208 with eight homers, 42 RBIs and a .608 OPS before undergoing season-ending surgery on both knees.

Swisher is owed $30 million over the next two seasons ($15 million annually) and his deal includes a vesting option worth $14 million for 2017. Similarly, center fielder Michael Bourn is owed $27.5 million over the 2015-16 seasons and has a vesting option worth $12 million for ’17. Both players have underperformed since arriving in Cleveland, so it makes sense for the club to gauge what offers might exist on the trade market.

At this point, Swisher’s position is a bit of an unknown with the Indians. His knees appeared to have a negative impact on his defense at first base and his arm issues in ’13 took right field nearly entirely out of the equation. Swisher can play first and potentially right, but he looks to be a DH at the moment for the Indians, who place a high value on versatility.

Rosenthal mentions players such as Ubaldo Jimenez, B.J. Upton and Ryan Howard in terms of others with inflated contracts around the league who are trade candidates. Rosenthal makes it clear, however, that the Indians might not have interest in those players specifically. Jimenez (owed $38.75 million through 2017) is interesting in the sense that he excelled down the stretch for the Indians in ’13 and Cleveland is looking for rotation depth this winter.

The Indians have some financial flexibility, especially due to the fact that the club features one of the most cost-effective rotations in baseball, but the club is contractually hamstrung on its 25-man roster. In order to make an impact addition this winter, the Tribe would likely need to free up space on the roster via trade. That is why floating Swisher’s name, and likely Bourn as well, makes complete sense for the Indians right now.

–Jordan Bastian

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