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Can 2013 Indians free agent signings be deemed busts yet?

By Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

A bust takes far longer to determine in real life than in Fantasy. An unproductive couple of months in the latter can turn promise into disappointment.

The question in Cleveland these days is whether the 2013 free agent signings of outfielder Michael Bourn and first baseman Nick Swisher can already be deemed busts early in the second years of their four-year contracts. Their drops in production in comparison to what had been typical seasons for them have been so pronounced that such a claim is certainly not unwarranted.

The Indians signed Bourn as a table-setter and base stealer, but he has done neither. His .263 batting average and .316 on-base percentage last season were his worst since 2008 and he continued to strike out at a disturbing rate. Moreover, he lost his aggressiveness on the basepaths with just 23 steals in 35 attempts. His lost confidence in thievery was evident. He used his unfamiliarity with American League pitchers as an excuse even after seeing them multiple times.

Bourn is 1 for 13 since returning to the lineup after missing the beginning of the season to a hamstring injury. All the same negative characteristics of his approach at the plate and on the bases appear to have returned. One wonders if the wear and tear on his legs have permanently diminished his skills.

Speaking of diminished skills, the same fear can be felt in regard to Swisher, whose fall in 2013 was equally distressing to the Indians. His signing was trumpeted by the organization as an Ohio boy returning home. He has expressed his love for Cleveland and its fans with unbridled enthusiasm, but what a team lacking in standout hitters needs from him is production that he has not delivered.

Swisher took a hit all the way down the stat line in 2013 at .246/.341/.423. He hit well in September to help the Indians slide into the playoffs, but has not picked up where he left off. He has started this year terribly, particularly in clutch situations, and has even struggled defensively.

The usually stingy Indians shelled out $104 million to land Bourn and Swisher for four years apiece before last season. Perhaps it's too early to deem either a bust - but both are on the verge of earning that label.

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