Braves outfielder Nick Swisher swatted a home run from both sides of the plate on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley field against the Cubs. Batting left-handed against starter Dan Haren in the second inning, he clubbed a home run to the opposite field to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Then, in the fifth inning, he capped off a five-run frame when he drilled another two-run shot to left field against lefty reliever Travis Wood.
The Braves went on to lose 9-7 to the Cubs.
Swisher, 34, was traded by the Indians to the Braves along with outfielder Michael Bourn and cash in exchange for third baseman Chris Johnson. He entered play Saturday batting only .160 with one home run and four RBI in 28 plate appearances with his new team.
I was at the Indians spring training camp in March of 2013 as Nick Swisher was just getting to know his Indians teammates. At the time they all loved him and his insane enthusiasm. Swisher himself was crazy-intense when I interviewed him and many of his teammates, from Jason Giambi on down to some guys with hardly any big league experience all talked about how great he was to have around.
I just spoke to Terry Francona and he said about Swisher that “he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.”
Walking out of the clubhouse, I ran into some of the team media people. I told them that whatever they’re paying Swisher, it’s not enough. They all agreed. He’s probably paid off his contract in increased season ticket sales already.
Right now Swisher’s energy is exactly what the Indians and their fans need. It’s a totally different thing than this team has seen in years. But I do wonder: what happens once the season begins? What happens if the Tribe loses six of their first eight and Swisher struggles? Will the intensity lag? Will it stay where it is and rub teammates the wrong way? It’s long season and no one can keep up Swisher’s energy for seven months, can they?
I guess things do feel different when you’re not playing well and not winning and that Swisher’s enthusiasm did rub poorly on guys after a time. Here’s Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com, writing the other day about Swisher’s former teammates’ reaction to his being traded:
Not all teammates shed a tear when Swisher packed up his belongings and jetted to Georgia. His relentless enthusiasm wore on members of the clubhouse and the fan base, as they longed for numbers in his stat line worthy of those on his paychecks.
The energy and over-the-top bubbly attitude helped eliminate any lasting effects from a defeated team that amassed a 68-94 mark in 2012. When his performance went south, however, his insistence on being the club’s commander and cheerleader didn’t carry much weight.
Players can like or dislike their teammates as any people in any workplace do. But “good chemistry,” defined as that special part of a winning team follows winning. It’s never the other way around. And that’s the case no matter what people want to tell you.
Nick Swisher hadn’t played a game for the Indians since June 12, but a day after being traded he’s in the starting lineup for the Braves tonight in Atlanta. Of course, prior to landing on the disabled list, the 34-year-old was hitting just .198/.261/.297 with two homers and eight RBI in 30 games, so I guess we’ll see how he does. He’ll be playing first base, batting fifth.
The Braves also added Michael Bourn to the 25-man roster. He’ll lead off and play left field tonight. Todd Cunningham and Daniel Castro were optioned to Triple-A to make room.
Indians trade Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and cash to the Braves for Chris Johnson
The Indians have traded Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and cash to the Braves in exchange for third baseman Chris Johnson. Yahoo’s Tim Brown was the first to report that Swisher was likely on the move. Joel Sherman reported that Johnson was going back to Cleveland and that Bourn and money was included in the deal. The Indians just sent out a press release making the deal official.
It’s a classic exchange of some bad contracts and, for the Braves, making some room for a more desirable player.
Swisher, who will be owed $15 million next season, is on the disabled list. He has proven to be an exceptionally poor signing for the Indians, having hit .228/.311/.377 in 1,146 plate appearances since inking a four-year, $56 million prior to the 2013 season, becoming their highest paid player. Bourn’s deal has not been much better. He signed a $48 million deal prior to 2013, and will be owed $14 million in 2016 with a vesting option for 2017. He has hit .257/.315/.345 in 1,388 plate appearances.
Johnson is signed through 2017 with a 2018 club option. He’s guaranteed $7.5 million next year, $9 million in 2017 and a $1 million buyout (or $10 million in salary if the option is exercised) for 2018. He’s hit .283/.317/.396 since being acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton deal before 2013. The Braves gave him an extension in May of last year which the current regime was likely not to pleased about.
So, the Indians lose their two biggest salary albatrosses and get Johnson. The Braves pick up a couple of reclamation projects — one of which, Bourn, played for them previously — and some cash relief to make gambles on them a bit more palatable. They also clear up third base for the newly acquired Hector Olivera who, while 30, is considered by the team to be the first offensive “building block” of their on-the-fly rebuild.