Victorino's snub opened door to Swisher, Bourn
By Tony LastoriaFOX Sports Ohio
Tuesday night's opener between the Indians and Boston marked the debut of outfielder Shane Victorino at Progressive Field as a member of the Red Sox.
Victorino has never been a Cleveland Indian, but he came close to becoming one this past offseason. His last-minute decision to not sign with the Tribe and instead sign with the Red Sox had a direct effect on a busy and productive offseason for the Indians.
Back in the infancy of the offseason, the Indians first big target was Victorino. Cleveland was aggressive in their pursuit, and manager Terry Francona even reached out to him in the process. When the Winter Meetings began, the Indians were considered Victorino's likely landing spot - a deal appeared imminent.
But the Red Sox entered the picture, signing Victorino to a three-year $39 million contract, more money per year but less total money than the four-year $44 million deal the Indians offered.
Victorino likely chose Boston because of recent success. But the question remains: if Victorino had known about the Indians' additional plans, would he have signed in Cleveland?
The 32-year old Victorino is off to a good start with the Red Sox, but there is a long way to go. 2012 was a rough year, as he looked to be in decline after putting up a .704 OPS (91 OPS+).
Many wondered why the Indians were so intent on overpaying for a player that was in decline. In a lot of ways, their attraction to him was like their ways of old, overpaying for veteran talent in decline.
Victorino may prove valuable in the short term, but would a four-year deal be a mistake for the Indians? For once, they maybe caught a break with a player saying no, opening the door for a series of good moves.
Victorino’s move to Boston triggered an offseason of complete change for the Indians, and may turn out to be a blessing. Given a chance to refocus after the miss, the Indians were able to turn the free agent market in their favor.
They immediately moved their attention to outfielder Nick Swisher, and as the winter meetings wrapped up, it became clear that players like Swisher and others were attainable.
Eventually, players began to get antsy on where they would be in 2012, and it helped limit the potential suitors of high-profile players.
This benefitted the Indians, and the Indians rebounded from the Victorino near miss by inking Swisher to a four-year $56 million deal just before Christmas and signing Michael Bourn to a four-year $48 million deal in mid-February.
In both cases the Indians were able to swoop in and offer deals that were manageable, not far above what Victorino eventually received from the Red Sox. The difference is that Victorino’s performance was in decline whereas Swisher and Bourn are still in their prime, offering a much better return on their investment.
It is still very early to declare any of the offseason moves as good or bad, but right now the Indians look to be much better off for not signing Victorino.