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Terry Pluto: The Indians' $100 million splurge is a welcome surprise
Pluto says spending spree is an investment that adds sizzle but will it make them contenders?

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
Nick Swisher is in camp in Goodyear, Arizona as spring training gets ramped up on Feb. 11, 2013. To see The Plain Dealer's coverage of the Indians, go to
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The Cleveland Indians are doing something fans have been demanding for years: Spending money. And they're spending big. Owners Larry and Paul Dolan have shelled out more than $100 million on free agent outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn this winter. 

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks to Amanda Rabinowitz about what's behind the splurge and what the moves mean for the team for this season and beyond.
Terry Pluto audio on the Indians

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Terry Pluto recalls a background talk with Indians owner Paul Dolan awhile ago, in which Dolan talked about wanting to change things.

“He was unhappy with the perception that a lot of fans had that the Indians will lose and just kind of make some money and that’ll be it.”

At that point, though, the only evidence of change was the Indians hiring of former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona, what Pluto calls “significant, but hardly a budget breaker.”

That was $104 million ago.

Last month, the Indians signed Nick Swisher to a $56 million, four-year contract, the biggest in team history. They put up another $3 million to ensure a trade for Trevor Bauer, a young pitcher with Arizona.

“And then the shocker came on Monday; spring training’s already open and they signed an outfielder named Michael Bourn for $48 million over four years.”

Bourn is a center fielder who has played his entire career in the National League, for Philadelphia, Houston and Atlanta. His trademark is speed and stolen bases.

Pluto says Dolan’s willingness to spend big money was key to signing both Bourn and Swisher. But so was his pick of Francona as manager.

“Francona’s a very popular manager among players, and … when there’s two contracts now on the table, and Francona comes in to try to close the deal, that helps.”

What the Indians are striving for, says Pluto, is “to be relevant” to fans. And Pluto says Cleveland couldn’t get that way by signing the “used-to-bes and never weres” as the team has done in the past.

“But “this is not that, … this isn’t a lottery ticket. This is an investment.”

With Bourne, Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs – and outfielder the Indians got from the Reds – the team has “one of the fastest outfields in the league and one of the best defensively,” says Pluto. He expects Swisher will go to first base; and Mark Reynolds will DH, all of which will mean more runs.

Pluto acknowledges pitching remains a big question, and expects the team will lose money this year. But, he says, the Indians have taken a crucial step.

“We’re talking about them, and we’re talking about players that at least you don’t have to be a total stats geek to have heard of.”

Ultimately, he says, what the Indians have done is “bought their way into the conversation of Cleveland sports fans.”

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