If you were the general manager, would you just shut Nick Swisher down for the season at this point? There are roughly six weeks left to play, the club is starting to jell and he has had constant health issues throughout the year.
-- Kevin N., Seattle
The Indians have been vague about the results of the recent doctor's visit to examine Swisher's ailing right knee. All we know right now is that Swisher is seeking a second opinion on Tuesday in Los Angeles, where he will be seen by Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Maybe surgery is under consideration. We'll know more early next week.
Surgery or not, Swisher might be wise to turn his focus toward 2015. Fans can complain all they want about his statistics, and there is plenty to gripe about, but he has done all he can to stay in the lineup this season. Swisher knows how much money he is making, understands his importance to the team and, for the second year in a row, has attempted to stay on the field through injuries.
The problem has been that, as admirable as it is for Swisher to try to gut this out and stay on the field, it has taken a dramatic toll on his abilities as a hitter. Swisher's strikeout percentage (27.7) is at a career high and his walk percentage (9.0) has dropped to a career low. His .208 average and .278 on-base percentage are far below his career norms.
At some point, staying in the lineup shifts beyond admirable and becomes detrimental.
The Indians signed Swisher to a four-year, $56 million contract to provide run production for the lineup and a blend of experience and energy to the clubhouse. Swisher's energy level, at least on the surface, has remained high throughout his season-long slump and injury woes. Underneath his signature smile has been plenty of frustration, though.
If the next doctor's exam does not show anything serious, Swisher will still surely be cautious about his return to the lineup. That said, he showed last September that he can get hot and help carry the offense despite a persistent injury. What Cleveland needs, however, is to have Swisher healthy and productive for a full season, especially when there are at least two more years on his contract.
Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera were approaching the end of their contracts, so their trades made sense to me. But why trade Vinnie Pestano now? His value's never been lower. Did the Tribe brass conclude his flaws can't be fixed?
-- @Monte_Colorman (Twitter)
I believe there were a few things at play in the trade that sent Pestano to the Angels.
One similarity to the Masterson (Cardinals) and Cabrera (Nationals) trades is that Pestano was unlikely to be in the 2015 picture. Masterson and Cabrera would have been gone via free agency (with no compensation) and Pestano (eligible for arbitration) was a clear non-tender candidate. As with the other trades, it was better to get something in return now than to lose a player for nothing in the winter.
Beyond that, a group of young pitchers (C.C. Lee and Austin Adams, for example) had leapfrogged the righty on Cleveland's depth chart. The Indians began using the more veteran Pestano against right-handed batters almost exclusively, which is a tough job to have in a Major League bullpen. All things considered, I think the Indians felt a fresh start was in Pestano's and the team's best interest.
Where does Zach Walters fit within the Indians' long-term plans? Is his power legitimate?
-- Ricky C., Youngstown, Ohio
The Indians want to use the rest of the season to see how Walters might fit into the equation. He switch-hits and can play multiple positions (second, short, third and left field), so he fits the Terry Francona mold. If Walters hits, Cleveland will surely find a spot for him. The power definitely seems legit, especially when you consider that his .483 slugging percentage through 43 Major League games is identical to the mark he's posted across five Minor League seasons.
Am I crazy or does Walters look a lot like Grady Sizemore?
-- Anthony Castrovince, MLB.com
You're not crazy, A.C. I had the same thought when he joined the Indians in New York. And I think someone with the Indians has a good sense of humor, because Walters' locker in the Cleveland clubhouse is where Sizemore's used to be located. From Grady's Ladies to Walters' Women?
What will Corey Kluber's contract situation look like this offseason? Will Cleveland sign him long-term? Or could he potentially be dealt somewhere?
-- Jamo K, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Extension or not, Kluber is not going anywhere for awhile. Fortunately for Cleveland's payroll, the right-hander will be under contract for near the league minimum in 2015. Kluber will be eligible for arbitration by '16 at the earliest, meaning his first free-agent year would be '19. Kluber is certainly an extension candidate, but there is no sense of urgency on that front for the Tribe.
Should I be concerned about Michael Brantley not playing the outfield lately?
-- Mike C., Parma Heights, Ohio
Brantley returned to center field for the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader with the D-backs, but he has spent four of the past five games as the designated hitter. I wouldn't be too worried. Brantley has fought some leg soreness recently, but he would not be in the lineup at all if it was serious. Besides, he's hitting .412 (1.123 OPS) over the past two weeks. Brantley seems fine.
There's always talk about players' futures in Cleveland and where they'll end up if the Indians don't fork over big bucks in free agency. I want to know what Tito's future holds with Cleveland? He's halfway through his contract. Does he stick it out with the Tribe? Or do bigger dollar signs from another team lure him away?
-- Rex H., Cedar Rapids, Iowa
If dollar signs were all Francona cared about, I doubt he would've come to Cleveland two winters ago. At the time, there were higher-profile jobs available. Francona's relationship with team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti is strong, and the club has already had success with him at the helm. Famous last words, I know, but I don't see Francona going anywhere anytime soon.
In closing ...
In one of your recent articles on Kluber, you mentioned that the Klubot smiled. Are you sure you weren't talking to an imposter?
-- David E., Middlebury, Vt.
It looked painful, but the Klubot did indeed smile.