There has been a lot of talk this off-season about windows. Such and such a team is trying to keep their window for contention open for another year while this team over here is not quite ready to compete. The idea of a window is any given team — the players which makes up their core — has a finite period of time which they can expect to contend for the playoffs and beyond.
The Seattle Mariners window to compete is not now.In fact it is still in the glass shop.
— DodgerSims (@DodgerSims) December 19, 2012
This concept is a decidedly middle-class problem. The Yankees window has been open since 1995. The Pirates live in a dark, windowless room into which no light or joy or hope may enter. The Royals pulled the trigger on significant trade, confounding pundits who believed their window to not yet be open. The Blue Jays overhauled their roster, emptying their farm system to move up their timeline for competitiveness from “never” to “now.”
Cleveland made a significant trade a few weeks back, trading their best player to Cincinnati as well as key members of their bullpen in a three-way deal which netted the Tribe center fielder Drew Stubbs, top prospect Trevor Bauer and some bullpen detritus.
A great trade for one year of Choo but Cleveland will surely be worse in 2013 than they were in 2012. Is now the time to load up for with a big free agent buy? Cleveland sure thinks so, going all out in pursuit of hometown boy Nick Swisher.
Sure, Cleveland signed Mark Reynolds and acquired versatile players like Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes to bolster their…grip on replacement level in 2013? No matter. The Indians went all out in their dogged pursuit of Nick Swisher, wining-and-dining the free agent and plastering his face across their sizeable video scoreboard.
Not stopping with mere flattery, Cleveland stepped up their celebrity endorsement game, calling on THE Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer among numerous other local deities in an attempt to woo the pride of Columbus (and tOSU alumnus to boot.)
While Swisher left town without signing a thing (including the cheque for his fancypants dinner on the town, we assume), Cleveland’s brass remain fixated on acquiring the right fielder/designated hitter only to see him squander his remaining productive years on 90-loss clubs. From Jordan Bastian of MLB.com:
“It was great to connect with he and his wife, Joanna,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said, “and a couple of other people that were on the visit as well. It was great to visit and spend some time with him. We had a chance to share our thoughts on the organization and where we are, and answer any questions that Nick had, as well as reconnect him with some of his Ohio roots.”
Which is a fancy way of saying “we plan to offer him more years and dollars than anyone else would even dream.” Bastian notes unconfirmed reports of an offer to Swisher’s camp for four years and nearly $50 mil.
MLB Trade Rumors notes that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers will not pursue Swisher – nor will they move Andre Ethier to make room for Swish or anyone. The Knobler reports Texas is in fact still considering signing Swisher.
Stat of the Day: Over the last two seasons, Andre Ethier has saved 10 more runs with his defense than Nick Swisher, which is approx. 1 win.
— John Dewan (@FieldingBible) December 19, 2012
Only one of the top 10 prospects in the Cleveland system figures to arrive on the scene in 2013, and that is a pitcher whose future remains uncertain as far as a role in the bullpen or rotation. Adding Trevor Bauer helps but can Nick Swisher sign for four years in Cleveland and expect, good as he is, to play on a single good team?
This offseason shows windows can slam shut or be shoved open at any time – provided you have the resources to make it happen. Cleveland doesn’t have the financial might of the Dodgers or the rich prospect stores the Blue Jays leveraged into a better on-field product.
Cleveland has to wait. They don’t have much choice aside from waiting on Francisco Lindor and hoping they can turn assets like Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera into something worthwhile before they exhaust their team control.
Signing Nick Swisher seems like a great PR move but the goodwill on such a move won’t last forever – certainly not for four years. Cleveland ranks second-to-last in attendance by total tickets sold, average crowd and percentage of tickets sold in 2012 after ranking in the bottom sixth each of the previous four seasons.
The impulse to score PR win by bringing in the local guy is not difficult to appreciate. The (fifty) million dollar question remains – is a little more money at the gate worth losing a draft pick and paying a guy to lose? It just might be. Surely Cleveland has done the math and recognizes Swisher offers more than just power and patience. Doesn’t mean it’s the best plan of attack, even if it is an understandable one.