CLEVELAND -- The Indians are trying to sell free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher on the idea that there is no place like home. Bringing the Ohio State University product to Cleveland to suit up for the Indians tugs at the sentimental heartstrings. But the purse strings remain undoubtedly important.
On Tuesday, the Indians pulled out all the stops on Swisher's visit to Cleveland and Progressive Field, treating the free agent like a high school recruit during his tour of the stadium and facilities. Swisher left town in the afternoon without penning his name on a contract, but he has a standing offer from the Tribe to be its starting right fielder.
"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."
It is believed the Indians have offered Swisher a four-year deal that could be worth around $50 million. The deal is larger than the four-year pact offered by the Tribe earlier this offseason to outfielder Shane Victorino, who instead signed a three-year, $39 million contract with Boston. Swisher was headed to an undisclosed city to meet with another team after his stop in Cleveland.
According to Bart Swain, the Indians' director of baseball information, Swisher arrived in Cleveland on Monday night and had dinner with team president Mark Shapiro, Antonetti and manager Terry Francona. Bullpen coach Kevin Cash, who was a teammate of Swisher's with the Yankees in 2009, was also on hand.
Antonetti declined to delve into any specifics regarding the visit or contract negotiations.
Francona -- hired in October to be the 42nd manager in franchise history -- joined Cleveland due to his friendship with Shapiro and Antonetti, but also because of his family ties to the Indians. Francona's father, Tito, played for Cleveland years before Terry Francona suited up for the Tribe as well. Terry Francona also worked in the Indians' front office in 2001 before later going on to win two World Series as manager of the Red Sox.
When he took the job, Francona described his return as a feel-good family story. The Indians appear to be working a similar angle with Swisher, who was born in Columbus, Ohio, raised as a teenager in Parkersburg, W.Va., located on the southeast Ohio border, and played baseball at Ohio State University. Swisher's father, former big leaguer Steve Swisher, attended Ohio University.
During Tuesday's tour of Cleveland's home ballpark, the Indians announced Swisher's name over the loudspeakers and played his personal walk-up music. On the scoreboard above left field, the outfielder saw his image and was also treated to a special video message, which featured a handful of personalities (including Ohio State coaches Urban Meyer (football), Thad Matta (basketball) and Greg Beals (baseball) urging him to return to his home state.
Swisher was treated to lunch with Antonetti and Francona, as well as former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and former Buckeye football player Dustin Fox, who currently works as a radio host on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland. Swisher's agent, Dan Lozano, was also present for the visit, which later included meetings with Shapiro, team CEO Paul Dolan and other executives.
On his tour, the 32-year-old Swisher was given an opportunity to look at a suite (for family use), as well as the team's clubhouse and training facilities. After getting a behind-the-scenes look at what could become his new home ballpark, Swisher and his representative left town around 3 p.m. ET. The Indians did not make changes to their original contract proposal.
Last week, Cleveland traded away Shin-Soo Choo in a blockbuster deal that helped the Tribe acquire pitching prospect Trevor Bauer and relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from the D-backs, and outfielder Drew Stubbs from the Reds. As things currently stand, Stubbs and Michael Brantley project to occupy two of the Indians' outfield spots.
Swisher would potentially complete the outfield picture.
Throughout this winter, Swisher has also been linked to the Mariners, Phillies, Red Sox, Giants and Orioles in various reports. Cleveland has been the one club to consistently come up as having strong interest.
Last season, the switch-hitting Swisher hit at a .272 clip with 24 homers, 36 doubles and 93 RBIs in 148 games for the Yankees. He also posted a .364 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage. Swisher has launched at least 23 home runs in five straight seasons and he has collected at least 80 RBIs four years in a row.