Nick Swisher is starting over not far from where his baseball career began.
Swisher passed his physical with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday and signed the four-year, $56 million, free-agent contract he agreed to last month.
The 32-year-old Swisher, born in Columbus, Ohio, will be introduced at a news conference later at Progressive Field. Swisher’s deal includes a vesting option based on plate appearances for 2017.
After trading Shin-Soo Choo last month, the Indians were desperate for a proven right fielder. They pursued Shane Victorino at the winter meetings. But after he signed with Boston, the Indians turned their attention to Swisher, who batted .272 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs last season — his fourth with the New York Yankees.
A switch hitter, Swisher should provide power and versatility to new manager Terry Francona’s lineup. The Indians only hit 136 homers last season, second-fewest in the AL.
Swisher drew interest from several teams, but the Indians were the most aggressive and used his Ohio connections to convince him to come to Cleveland.
When Swisher and his wife, actress Joanna Garcia Swisher, visited Cleveland last month, the club rolled out the scarlet-and-gray carpet to impress them. Swisher attended Ohio State, where he played baseball. The Indians brought in former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel to have lunch with Swisher, and the team also had recorded messages from coach Urban Meyer as well as Buckeyes basketball coach Thad Matta play on the giant scoreboard, urging him to come “home.”
Francona’s arrival in Cleveland also had an impact on Swisher.
Swisher’s father, Steve, managed Francona in the minor leagues. Francona has known Swisher since he was a kid.
Swisher is just one of three American Leaguers to hit at least 20 homers in each of the past eight seasons. He’s a career .256 hitter with 209 homers and 673 RBIs in nine seasons with Oakland, the Chicago White Sox and Yankees.
With New York concerned about avoiding the luxury tax in the future, the Yankees did not go after Swisher after he turned down a qualifying offer from them. Once Swisher signed with the Indians, New York general manager Brian Cashman said he thought “Cleveland got a bargain.”
Swisher made the AL’s All-Star team in 2010, when he batted .288 with 29 homers and 89 RBIs.
His signing is among many moves made this offseason by the Indians, who collapsed in August — going 5-24 — and finished 68-94 last season. The first change may have been the biggest as manager Manny Acta was fired and replaced by Francona, who won two World Series titles with Boston.
Cleveland also signed free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds and acquired center fielder Drew Stubbs and prized-pitching prospect Trevor Bauer in a nine-player, three-team trade with Cincinnati and Arizona.
The Indians have an agreement with right-hander Brett Myers on a one-year, $7 million contract pending a physical. Myers likely would take one of the openings in the club’s starting rotation.
Cleveland remains in the market for a designated hitter.