September 19, 2014

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Indians: Swisher visits Tribe; Reynolds signing official

CLEVELAND — The Indians wined and dined free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher on Monday night, then hit him with a pitch fit for a blue chip college recruit the following day.

He still left town without a deal.

Though Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti would not confirm as much, it is believed the Indians have offered Swisher a contract in hopes that he will replace Shin-Soo Choo in right field. There are other teams interested in Swisher’s services, with the 32-year-old, eight-year veteran reportedly leaving Cleveland on Tuesday to meet with one.

“It was great to visit with him,” Antonetti said. “We had the chance to share some of our thoughts on the organization and answer some of his questions, as well as reconnect him with some of his Ohio roots.”

Swisher was born in Columbus, moving to Parkersburg, W.Va. when he was 11, and then returning to Ohio to star at The Ohio State University from 2000-02.

Swisher and his wife, actor JoAnna Garcia, spent the day at Progressive Field, with part of the Indians’ production including messages on the Videotron from OSU football coach Urban Meyer, basketball coach Thad Matta and baseball coach Greg Beals. Former Buckeyes football coach Jim Tressel was reportedly present at the Indians’ dinner with Swisher on Monday.

There have been a number of teams – Red Sox, Phillies, Mariners, Orioles — showing interest this offseason in Swisher, who became a free agent after four years with the Yankees. The Rangers are now likely in the mix after losing Josh Hamilton, but it’s been Cleveland that has shown the most consistent interest in Swisher, who has hit at least 20 home runs in each of his eight seasons.

Swisher, a switch-hitter, batted .272 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs in 148 games last year and is expected to command a similar contract to the one Shane Victorino signed with the Red Sox – three years, $39 million.

When asked if he thought the Indians had impressed Swisher, Antonetti said, “That would be a better question for Nick.”

Cleveland also finally went public with the Mark Reynolds acquisition, officially announcing they had signed the right-handed hitting first baseman to a one-year contract worth $6 million plus incentives. Reynolds, 29, hit .221 with 23 homers and 69 RBIs in 135 games during his second season in Baltimore last year.

“We feel he helps provide great balance to our lineup,” Antonetti said. “He’s a right-handed hitter with power who has shown the ability to get on base, and we feel he plays a very good first base.

“We think Mark will help our offense. The power he brings was especially attractive to us.”

Reynolds averaged 37-plus homers from 2009-11, but he also strikes out in bunches, leading the league four times in the department in five-plus years in the majors. Drew Stubbs, a recently-acquired outfielder who is expected to start for Cleveland, has also led the league in strikeouts.

Antonetti doesn’t sound concerned.

“We had the third-fewest strikeouts in the American League last year and we were second-to-last in amount of runs scored,” he said. “The thing we care about most is scoring runs and preventing runs.”

Antonetti said Reynolds would see the bulk of time at first base but that he would also get at-bats at designated hitter, a spot the Indians may not fill on a fulltime basis after the departure of Travis Hafner.

If the Indians do not sign a replacement for Choo, the internal options are minor leaguers Tim Fedroff, Ezequiel Carrera and Thomas Neal. Russ Canzler was thought to be in the mix, but he was designated for assignment to clear room on the roster for Reynolds.

In addition to an outfielder, Antonetti said the Indians are interested in acquiring starting pitching help.

“We continue to look at ways to improve the team,” he said.

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.