MLB notebook: Indians sign Swisher for 4 years, $56 million
CLEVELAND — The Indians' pitch to bring Nick Swisher “home” worked.
Two people familiar with the negotiations said Swisher agreed to a $56 million, four-year contract with the Indians, who used the free-agent outfielder's deep Ohio connections to convince him to join the club. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because Swisher must take a physical before the deal can be finalized. The Indians are expected to announce Swisher's signing after Christmas, one of the people said.
The Indians will not comment until Swisher completes his physical.
“Wow! What a crazy few weeks,” Swisher said on Twitter. “Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I'm coming home!”
Swisher's deal includes a $14 million option for 2017 that could become guaranteed based on plate appearances the previous year.
The 32-year-old Swisher spent the last four seasons with the New York Yankees, taking advantage of the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. A switch-hitter, Swisher hit .272 this season with 24 homers and 93 RBI.
Swisher will fill an outfield hole for the Indians, who traded Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. Swisher will play right, with recently acquired Drew Stubbs likely taking over in center with Michael Brantley shifting from center to left field.
Swisher, who was born in Columbus and played at Ohio State, visited the Indians earlier in the week. The club used Swisher's ties with the Buckeyes to convince him to join a team that won just 68 games last season following an historic collapse in August.
During his tour of Progressive Field, Swisher watched a video presentation on the stadium's giant scoreboard that featured messages from current Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and basketball coach Thad Matta, who urged him to sign with the Indians. Later, Swisher and his wife, actress JoAnna Garcia, had lunch with former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who was at the school when Swisher played there.
Swisher's signing is a significant win for the Indians, who have been in the market for an outfielder throughout the offseason. During the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., they offered Shane Victorino a $44 million, four-year contract before he agreed to a $39 million, three-year deal with Boston.
Freel found dead at 36
Ryan Freel, a former player known for his fearless play but whose career was cut short after eight seasons by a series of head and other injuries, was found dead Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Freel, who was 36, died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted shotgun wound, sheriff's office spokesman Shannon Hartley wrote in an email Sunday. The medical examiner will make the final determination of the cause of death.
“RIP Ryan Freel!! Great teammate, great guy,n loved his family!” former Cincinnati Reds teammate and Pittsburgh native Sean Casey tweeted. “Such a sad day today with his passing!Awful news!Prayers are with his family!”
The speedy Freel spent six of his eight big league seasons with the Reds and finished his career in 2009 with a .268 average and 143 steals.
Freel drew attention in 2006 when he was quoted by the Dayton Daily News as saying he had an imaginary friend, Farney. “He's a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him,” Freel was quoted as saying. “Everybody thinks I talk to myself, so I tell ‘em I'm talking to Farney.”
The Jacksonville native thrilled fans with his all-out style, yet it took a toll on his career. During his playing days, he once estimated he had sustained up to 10 concussions. Freel missed 30 games in 2007 after a collision with a teammate caused a concussion.
Freel had consecutive seasons of 37, 36 and 37 steals from 2004-06 but started to slow the following year.