Indians use Ohio State ties to recruit Swisher
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was among a group who had lunch on Tuesday at Progressive Field with Swisher, who is considering a multiyear contract offer from the Indians. Swisher would immediately fill a hole in right field for Cleveland, which traded Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati last week and has been trying to improve a team that collapsed in August and finished 68-94.
The 32-year-old Swisher, who spent the past four seasons with the New York Yankees, arrived in Cleveland on Tuesday night and went to dinner with new manager Terry Francona, team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti. Last week, Antonetti said he intended to add a "corner" outfielder and the Indians are pulling out all the stops to add Swisher.
He and his wife, actress JoAnna Garcia, who is expecting the couple's first child in May, arrived at Progressive Field at 10:15 a.m. and toured the club's family room. They were shown a suite and the team's clubhouse before the Indians tugged at Swisher's Ohio State connections to convince him Cleveland should be his next baseball home. Swisher played baseball for the Buckeyes.
The Indians played a video on their scoreboard that featured current Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and basketball coach Thad Matta, who encouraged Swisher to join the Indians. Swisher was moved by the gesture and didn't expect to see Tressel at lunch in the stadium's Terrace Club.
Tressel won a national title at Ohio State but was forced to resign amid a scandal. His new position is Akron's vice president of strategic engagement.
Following the lunch, which also included Francona, Swisher met with Shapiro and members of the club's marketing department. He left at 2:45 p.m. without giving the Indians an answer. Swisher is expected to visit with other teams before making a decision. Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco are among the teams who have shown interest in him.
"It was great to connect," Antonetti said. "We had a chance to share our thoughts on the organization and where we are, and were able to answer any questions he may have had."
A switch-hitter, Swisher batted .272 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs in 148 games last season, his fourth with the New York Yankees.
The Indians have been in the market for an outfielder throughout the offseason. They offered Shane Victorino a four-year contract worth a reported $44 million before he signed a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston.
Also, Cleveland officially signed free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds to a one-year, $6 million deal. He spent the past two seasons with Baltimore, batting .221 with 23 homers and 69 RBIs in 135 games last season.
"We feel Mark provides a great balance to our lineup, a right-handed hitter with some power, with the ability to get on base," Antonetti said. "We feel he will help our offense."
Reynolds passed a physical last week but his signing couldn't be announced until the Indians made a 40-man roster move. The club designated infielder Russ Canzler for assignment.