There have been rumors going around for weeks now that the Cleveland Indians are interested in acquiring the services of former Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher. The latest rumors say that Swisher has visited Cleveland and met with Chris Antonetti and was offered a deal worth more than $50 million for the next four seasons. After years of claiming poverty it is inexplicable where the Indians are coming up with this kind of money for a very average outfielder that has already passed his prime. When offering amounts of this level, what the team really has to focus on in how many actual extra wins a player will provide for the money offered. In this case, the Indians have a few true replacement level players available to play right field (including Ezequiel Carrera and until yesterday, Russ Canzler), so judging Swisher against a replacement level player is fair. Any replacement level player used by the Indians would likely be paid league minimum for 2013 in order to provide a fair comparison.
We rarely discuss WAR (wins above replacement) on this site, but in this situation, it is the most applicable stat there is. Since joining the Yankees in 2009, Swisher has averaged 2.5 wins above replacement each season (the best season in his career was 4.1 during his age 26 season in Oakland). As Swisher gets older and further away from the numbers of his prime seasons, we can expect his value to decrease even more. Assuming the production Swisher gave to the Yankees, the Indians would be paying Swisher almost $5M for each win above replacement. Assuming Carrera (.5 WAR in 2012) is the replacement right fielder, he would be paid about $1M for each extra win.
The fact is that a win is a win, however much you pay for it. While most of the moves the Indians have made this year have been great (especially the Esmil Rodgers and Trevor Bauer trades), this is going too far. A small free agent market and pressure from the fans are forcing the Indians to make the same mistakes they make year after year. Every season the Indians make mistakes in the free agent market, over paying for players they don't need, but giving $50 million to Nick Swisher could be the biggest mistake in team history. Travis Hafner barely made as much per season with his extension after he hit 42 home runs in a single season and Swisher hasn't hit more than 30 since 2006. This contract would saddle the Tribe with an unnecessary contract for the next four seasons, crippling their ability to resign players and making Swisher impossible to trade in two years when his talent diminishes to the level it almost surely will.
It isn't too late. The Indians need to retract their offer to Swisher and move to acquire another outfielder through trade or look internally for another option. They are out of their depth offering such a gigantic contract to such a mediocre player. Swisher is not the answer on his own to bringing the Indians back to the World Series, but if they sign him to that contract, he will be the only player they will be able to add. It was bad enough the Indians had to trade Shin-Soo Choo because they couldn't afford to resign him. It will be worse when they can't sign Jason Kipnis to a long-term deal because they are still saddled with a terrible contract with Nick Swisher.