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Swisher home for Christmas

Indians woo slugger back to Ohio from Yankees

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CLEVELAND -- The Indians' pitch to bring Nick Swisher "home" worked.

Two people familiar with the negotiations said Swisher has 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.

"Wow! What a crazy few weeks. Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I'm coming home!" Swisher said on Twitter.

The 32-year-old 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 centre with Michael Brantley shifting from centre 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 off-season. 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.

Seattle, Texas and Boston were believed to be interested in Swisher, regarded as the second-best free agent hitter this off-season behind Josh Hamilton. The Indians have been desperate to add power and Swisher, who has hit at least 22 homers in each of the past seven seasons, will bolster the middle of new manager Terry Francona's lineup.

Swisher's value may have been damaged by poor post-seasons with the Yankees. He batted .162 in the post-season for New York with seven RBIs and 38 strikeouts in 130 at-bats.

Swisher spent four seasons with Oakland and one with the Chicago White Sox before joining the Yankees.

The Indians will lose their second-round pick in next year's amateur draft as compensation for signing Swisher, and the Yankees will get an extra selection following the first round.

It's been a busy off-season for Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, who is trying to fix a team that has lost at least 93 games in three of the past four seasons.

Antonetti fired manager Manny Acta and replaced him with Francona, the former Boston manager who has spent the past few weeks meeting with his new players. Antonetti also signed free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds and was part of a three-team, nine-player deal that sent Choo to the Reds for Stubbs and brought Cleveland prized pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from Arizona.

The signing of Swisher will take some pressure off Antonetti, who has been criticized by fans for several moves in recent years.

His agreement was first reported by the New York Daily News.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 24, 2012 C2

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