Fans might not hear the clock ticking inside the offices at Progressive Field, or inside Grady Sizemore, but they each hear it loud and clear. It’s the clock ticking on the Indians while they decide whether or not to exercise Sizemore’s $8.5 million option for the 2012 season.
The Indians have until three days after the completion of the World Series to make their decision and you should expect them to use almost everyday available before making it. If yesterday’s story proves to be correct, and the Indians have between $15-18 million to spend this winter, Sizemore would soak up around half of that budget. Coming off his worst season as a big leaguer, it is tough to hand that large of the Indians available cash to someone who made three trips to the disabled list this season.
Sizemore has struggled since the middle of 2009, making numerous trips to the disabled list and having micro fracture surgery on his left knee in May 2010. Since returning this season from the procedure it has been Sizemore’s right knee hampering him from staying in the lineup. Many people who have micro fracture surgery often have to have the procedure on the other knee within three years. Sizemore had minor knee surgery on October 3, but not micro fracture. He is expected to be healthy by spring training.
Along with his injuries, Sizemore’s production has plummeted. Gone is his speed that once made him such a threat on the bases and in the field. His range is certainly not the same and he did not steal a base in 2011. He only attempted to run twice. At the plate, his strikeouts have risen. This season he struck out 28.8% of his plate appearances. On a team that strikes out far too much, they can ill-afford to have a player flailing away that often.
The Indians sincerely believe Sizemore’s loss of production can be directly attributed to his injuries and believe that if he was healthy, he would be more valuable than any player they could sign for the value of his salary. Even if his speed was gone. Hitters who have 25-30 home run possibility don’t come cheap.
Entering the winter the Tribe is desperate to add offensive production to its lineup. Many of the lineup’s struggles this season were when Sizemore was sidelined with injuries. A middle of the order hitter, someone who could hit with Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner, is exactly what they will be looking for on the open market. Finding someone with Sizemore’s production, for his $8.5 million could be tough find.
If the Indians were sure Sizemore would be healthy on Opening Day 2012, they would exercise his option. Privately, they were leaning toward picking up his option before his end of the year injury and most recent knee surgery. The Indians would like to tear up his option, give him a longer contract with a smaller base salary, full of incentives. But why would Sizemore be willing to give up money he is already promised? Several big market clubs would not be afraid to gamble and sign him for the $8.5 million he is promised.
Can the Indians afford to gamble $8.5 million though, with their projected $75-78 million team salary on a player who hasn‘t been healthy for nearly three years? That’s over 11% of the team’s projected payroll. If they can’t take the risk, can they afford to see him walk away from the only team he’s known and possibly thrive somewhere else?
Unfortunately, these questions are tough to answer in October, but they’re the ones the Indians are left to try and answer while the ticks of the clock get louder and the deadline closer.
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