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Indians pull out stops for free agent Nick Swisher

Indians pull out stops for free agent Nick Swisher

CLEVELAND (AP) The Indians called upon a proven recruiter to land free agent outfielder Nick 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.

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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

As excited as Orioles fans are for the future of the franchise, and as desperate as they are for any glimpses of that future in the form of their top prospects, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll see Adley Rutschman in the big leagues any time soon.

The number one overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Rutschman is one of the most highly-touted prospects to enter the draft in years, and as an experienced college catcher, is the prototype of a fast-moving player through the farm system.

According to the man tasked with ultimately making those types of timeline-based decisions, Rutschman will play the biggest role in determining how quickly he advances.

“Well it’s his first full season in pro ball, so it’s hard to put too much expectation on that,” General Manager Mike Elias cautioned to NBC Sports Washington when asked about the hype surrounding his first-ever draft pick. “It’s about starting in A-ball, or High-A, or wherever we decide to start him, and having success. And once he has success, we’ll get him moving.”

Elias told reporters at the Winter Meetings that Rustchman would have a chance to play with the big league club at Spring Training next season, but that will be more about the learning experience and less about a true opportunity to break camp with the team.

It’s hard to imagine a player like Rutschman not having success. He showed flashes of his talent across three lower levels of the Orioles’ minor league system after signing last summer, ultimately landing with the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The skills necessary for success, both on and off the field, were readily apparent to Elias and the Orioles front office throughout the draft process.

They say timing is everything, and Elias considers the Orioles very lucky to have earned the top pick in a year with a player like Rutschman.

“I think we were very fortunate that we had the number one pick in a year when Adley Rutschman was in the draft,” he said while praising the future face of the franchise. “He fits the type of player that we’re looking for perfectly, being an impact hitter but also a really good defensive catcher and team leader type. So it’s a perfect guy to sort of kick off this whole era of our rebuild, and I think it’s going to be fun seeing what he does in our minor league affiliates this year.”

Of course, Rutschman isn’t the only young player fans will be keying in on this season. Austin Hays is one of the more exciting young players in the organization, and he will enter Spring Training as the favorite for the everyday job in centerfield. If the gifted outfielder can stay healthy, he will be given every opportunity to solidify himself as the centerfielder of the future.

“He’s what we call in the scouting parlance ‘tooled out’,” Elias described when asked about Hays’ highlight-reel plays late in the 2019 season. “I mean he can run, he can really throw, he’s got power, all the physical capabilities. And he’s shown that when he’s healthy he can hit at the Major League level too.”

Of course, injuries have been the one thing that can stop Hays early in his promising career. 

“Health has been the issue for him,” Elias continued. “He’s had two injury-plagued seasons in a row, but when he came up at the end of last season he was playing with energy, he was healthy. So that’s all we want to see for him, but I think he’s an impact centerfielder and a huge part of our next good team.”

The next good Orioles team is still a few years away, but the pieces are starting to come into place. Not every top prospect will pan out -- there’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to minor league players -- but the Orioles are stocking the organization with talented, hard-working players.

Looking ahead to another long season in 2020, Orioles fans will have to look beyond the win-loss column to find signs of hope. If things go according to Mike Elias’ plan, Rustchman and Hays should provide plenty of moments worth getting excited.

Rutschman’s time is coming. For Hays, the future is now. For both, the eyes of Baltimore are upon them as the franchise enters the next era of Orioles baseball.

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Orioles and Scott Boras have met to discuss how Chris Davis can improve

Orioles and Scott Boras have met to discuss how Chris Davis can improve

When the Orioles signed Chris Davis to a team-record $161 million deal ahead of the 2016 season, they were expecting the left-handed slugger to be a perennial candidate for the league lead in home runs while being a versatile defender at multiple positions.

Instead, Davis has been a black hole in the lineup. No one in the majors has more strikeouts than Davis since the start of that contract, his home run totals have fallen every year and he’s played almost exclusively first base and designated hitter.

“We’re trying everything we can,” Orioles GM Mike Elias told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas. “He’s been struggling now for years and there are a lot of reasons for that and we continue to look into it. But the reality is, as you said, he is under contract and it’s something not to take lightly and because of that we’re going to be focused on getting the most out of him that we can. But it’s a very frustrating situation for him and for us.”

At his annual Winter Meetings impromptu press conference, Davis’ agent Scott Boras told reporters that he’s spoken with Orioles officials about how they can help the first baseman improve his production next season.

Davis, who spends his offseasons in Dallas, is reportedly not interested in attending a hitting school. Both Boras and the Orioles are hoping to come up with a different approach that will help him contribute to the lineup next season.

Baltimore still has Davis under contract for three more seasons, but the deferred money in his contract has the team paying him until 2037.

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