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Big money underperformers playing a role in Indians' slide

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Both Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn have been unable to make good on their contracts so far.
Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn have been unable to make good on their contracts so far. (USATSI)

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Few teams were more active this past offseason than the Indians, who moved Shin-Soo Choo in a three-team trade and handed out two of the biggest contracts in franchise history to a pair of free-agent outfielders. Those outfielders are part of the reason the team is sliding out of postseason contention.

Nick Swisher (four years, $56 million) and Michael Bourn (four years, $48 million) have combined to hit .254/.329/.374 with 16 home runs (12 by Swisher) and 17 stolen bases (all by Bourn) in 852 plate appearances this season, far below their usual standard. Here's their 2013 seasons compared to recent years:

Swisher & Bourn: Performance Comparisons
Player2010-12 OPS+2012 OPS+2013 OPS+2010-12 WAR2012 WAR2013 WAR
Swisher1251271089.43.92.1
Bourn97999314.96.01.5

To be fair, Swisher has been battling a nagging shoulder injury pretty much all summer while Bourn missed nearly four weeks after having his finger stepped on. Neither guy has been healthy, which is a legitimate excuse for the underperformance. Excuses don't help their place in the standings, however.

Neither Swisher nor Bourn has actually been bad this year, but both have not performed up to snuff. Swisher was expected to hit for more power -- he's on pace for 16 homers, which would be a career low by five -- while Bourn was expected to be a leadoff monster with 40-plus steals. Considering both guys are on the wrong side of 30, it's fair to wonder if these are down years or signs of decline.

The Indians are not completely out of the playoff race yet -- far from it really -- but they definitely have an uphill climb ahead of them. They need Swisher and Bourn to improve their performances down the stretch if they want to have a chance, mostly because their down years are a big reason why the team is in this spot in the first place.

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