One of the needs that will be addressed this winter is the outfield, namely bringing in someone who can play center field. There have been numerous names tossed around going back to last July’s trade deadline and each has their arguments for and against. ESPN’s Buster Olney tossed a new name into the mix in his (Insider only) column this past Sunday and with this Tweet that afternoon – Grady Sizemore.
The Cleveland Indians held a $9 Million option for the 2012 season for Sizemore, but instead chose to decline it, paying him a $500,000 buyout. The door reportedly remains open on both sides for a reunion, but it would be for a far lesser sum that the option would have paid. For the first time in his career, Sizemore is going to be able to dictate where he plays next season. And he should see numerous options presented. Rumblings have already started that Boston, for one, has some level of interest.
Most of us are likely familiar with Sizemore’s track record, but let’s run through the highlights of his 8 year MLB career:
- Drafted in 2000 (3rd round) by the Montreal Expos.
- Traded to the Cleveland Indians on July 27, 2002 along with Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens in exchange for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew (Widely regarded as one of the worst trades of the past 20 years.)
- Made his MLB debut on July 21, 2004. He came into the game as a defensive replacement for Coco Crisp in the 9th and popped out in his only at bat, against Mark Buerhle in a 14-0 Indians loss. Sizemore would remain with the Indians for the remainder of that 2004 season, appearing in 43 games. He batted .246/.333/.406 in 159 plate appearances.
- Named to three All Star Games (2006 – 2008). Winner of two Gold Glove Awards (2007 and 2008) and one Silver Slugger Award (2008).
- The 2008 season was arguably his single best year. In 745 plate appearances he batted .268/.374/.502 while setting career highs in HR (33), RBI (90), and stolen bases (38).
- April 16, 2009. Sizemore hits the first grand slam in the history of New Yankee Stadium.
- Limited to just 104 games between the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to microfracture surgery on his right knee, subsequent setbacks and recurrent injuries to the same knee, and a sports hernia. In 435 plate appearances he batted just .220/.280/.379.
- October 31, 2011. Granted free agency when the Indians declined his 2012 option.
When healthy, Sizemore was considered among the premier outfielders in all of baseball due to his combination of offensive potential and the spectacular defensive plays he made routinely for much of the early years of his career. Injuries have since derailed that once promising career, but there is still value there. The key is keeping him on the field, rather than in the trainer’s room.
It has been widely believed that the Nationals primary goal is to find a center fielder this winter. The possibility exists that the team could instead focus on a corner outfielder, ultimately playing Jayson Werth in center field initially (he could eventually end up there anyways, once Bryce Harper is ready), but at least at the present moment that doesn’t seem to be the preferred path.
However, I think Sizemore could ultimately be a fit here. He has played center field for the entirety of his career to date. But a good center fielder should be able to learn to play a corner position with relative ease. Those spectacular defensive plays I alluded to earlier, those take a toll on any player’s body over time. Yet, at least publicly, we have never heard anyone suggest moving Sizemore to a corner spot in an effort to limit how much abuse his body takes. We’ve seen players make such a move in the past – Torii Hunter is a recent example. He voluntarily moved to right field for the betterment of the team and to keep himself healthy for the length of his remaining contract. So, why couldn’t Sizemore be willing to make a similar move?
The Nationals have also been searching for a solution to their need at the top of the lineup for players who can consistently get on base. Sizemore has spent the better part of his career – 3,319 of his 3,527 career plate appearances – batting from the leadoff spot. He’s certainly familiar with the role and he’s capable of setting the table for a Nationals lineup that should feature some combination of Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Adam LaRoche, Wilson Ramos, and Werth in the middle.
While it’s a lesser point, don’t forget that Sizemore was initially drafted by the Expos but was traded away before he was able to reach the Major Leagues. Things don’t typically work out the way we’d write them to, but what a story it would make for the former-Expos prospect to come back to the Washington organization in order to help them reach their first postseason.
Buster Olney was right, Sizemore would be a good fit for the Nationals as he would be solidifying the outfield defense and the top of the batting lineup. Of course, this is presuming the sides can agree on a contract and the Nationals can sell Sizemore on Washington being the best fit for him this winter. As I mentioned before, I’m expecting that he’ll attract a significant amount of interest on the free agent market. I know his injury history will ultimately scare a number of teams away, but there is still a productive player there who could help a team like the Nationals immediately. Under the right contractual circumstances – I’d guess a one year deal (Sizemore could “re-establish value” before reaching free agency again next offseason) somewhere in the neighborhood of $4-5 Million – it could be an option to consider.