What To Do With Grady Sizemore?
By Vince Guerrieri
He was a throw-in in one of the most successful trades in Indians history.
Then he was the face of the franchise.
Now, Grady Sizemore’s career as an Indian may not be much longer.
Sizemore was one of the players – with Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens – who came from the Expos in exchange for Bartolo Colon. And thanks to his contributions, it appeared that the Indians eventually got the better of that deal. Sizemore was one of the most productive members of the Tribe in his first four years. After his first full season in the majors in 2005, where he scored 111 runs, knocked in another 85 batting leadoff and posted a .289 batting average, the Indians locked Sizemore in with a six-year, $23.45 million contract, with a club option for 2012.
And now it’s decision time. Do the Indians pick up the $8.5 million option, do they decline it and wish him well on his next stop or do they try to negotiate a new deal? Part of the answer is simple, and part of it is complicated.
The simple part should be to decline to pick up the option. Sizemore put together four remarkable seasons from 2005-2008, earning three straight All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger award. In that span, he never played in fewer than 157 games, never scored less than 100 runs – in 2006, in fact, he led the American League with 134 runs – and never had an OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) lower than .832.
But injuries started to catch up to him in 2009. He pulled out of the World Baseball Classic because of a groin injury, and ended up shutting down his season in September for elbow surgery. He also had hernia surgery related to the groin injury.
His 2010 season ended with microfracture surgery on his left knee, and he was sidelined for most of the 2011 season with an injury to his right knee, and had an additional sports hernia surgery. The man Ozzie Guillen once called the best player in the American League has averaged 68 games played in each of the last three seasons.
He’ll be 30 next year, and the speed that once made him a threat on the basepaths and patrolling center field might be going away, if not gone entirely, because of repeated surgeries. There’s no telling how much he’s got left in the tank, and the best thing that could be said about picking up his option is that the Tribe would only be on the hook for a year.
Even renegotiating – trying to get Sizemore back for another year at a (deeply) discounted price – might not be the best option. Michael Brantley (another outfielder who was a throw-in on a deal for a big power pitcher) has blossomed into a solid centerfielder who is more suited to bat leadoff. (Sizemore, for his speed, had more power and was probably one of the best hitters in the lineup, and would have benefitted from more RBI situations.) Also, Trevor Crowe could get a chance to play more regularly in the last month of the season, and his performance could make the decision clearer – or muddy the waters more.
Plus, would Sizemore take a discount? He was the most popular baseball player in Cleveland, whose good looks and scrappy play led to the formation of a female legion of fans – Grady’s Ladies. Would he be able to take a discount and potentially not play every day? Does he have enough left to play every day and make an impact?
There are no easy answers. In the words of “Pawn Stars,” Sizemore might be worth holding on to – at the right price. But if it comes down to a fish-or-cut-bait decision, Grady Sizemore might not be with the Indians after this season.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images