By: T.J. Zuppe
What talks louder? Money or winning?
As the free-agent market attempts to push outfielder Nick Swisher into the welcoming arms of the Cleveland Indians, the former Yankee appears to be in no hurry to hook up with the Tribe - likely his biggest suitor at the moment.
After missing out on outfielder Shane Victorino - four years / $44 million turned down in favor of a deal from the Boston Red Sox - Swisher and infielder Kevin Youkilis seem to be the major Cleveland targets in free-agency.
And it is easy to see why.
The 32-year old Swisher - a better and safer investment than Victorino - fills many of Cleveland's needs. The switch-hitter can play either corner outfield position and could easily slide over to right-field if the Tribe decides to deal outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Historically, Swisher hits lefties well and would provide better balance to a left-handed heavy lineup. He was a consistent run producer in New York and brings a much needed element of power.
But this is not a one-sided negotiation. Swisher has to buy in (and for other reasons than just his Ohio State ties).
One thing the Indians have on their side; the best combination of money and opportunity left on the market. (Is that money from Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore and Roberto Hernandez burning a hole in their pocket, or what? - $44 million for Victorino - say what?!)
At this point, they probably find themselves with the most flexibility with a willingness to ink him. Other clubs may have the cash but not the opportunity. The featherheads seem to have both.
Is that enough? Victorino said no. But what of Swisher?
To his credit, Tribe skipper Terry Francona has been doing his part, reportedly personally calling potential free-agent candidates and pitching the Indians. For that reason, the Indians have been given a least a puncher's chance on guys like Swisher and Youkilis - two players who greatly respect and admire Francona.
But Francona can only do so much to erase years of the obvious perception surrounding the Tribe. Is admiration for a manager enough to trump a better shot at immediate contention?
That decision is out of the Tribe's hands.
While it appears the market has shrunk for Swisher - with other clubs turning their attentions to larger or different fish - Swisher may not be ready to come to terms with that reality.
And just because the Indians are the only legitimate suitor at the moment does not mean he will like what Cleveland is selling - or at least hold out in hope that another club emerges with interest when a few of the larger dominoes begin to fall.
For now, the Indians wait... and so does their starving fan base.
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