Could Grady Sizemore be the Yankees right fielder next year?
Hal Steinbrenner apparently wasn't kidding.
As ESPN's Buster Olney explained in a recent column, general manager Brian Cashman is simpatico with that philosophy. In the past, Yankees ownership and upper management has gone over his head to sign Bernie Williams, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano to exorbitant contracts against Cashman's recommendation.
But according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman, the Yankees are serious about getting under that luxury-tax threshold—so serious that the team isn't even interested in offering Torii Hunter a two-year, $20 million contract.
Obviously, that means Nick Swisher will be looking for employment elsewhere through free agency. He's looking to cash in, and rightfully so. Trading for Justin Upton apparently isn't an option either, though he has a team-friendly contract that likely wouldn't push the Yankees over the luxury-tax limit.
Anyone hoping for a star player in right field seems likely to be terribly disappointed. One-year contracts are the Yankees' current way of doing business when it comes to acquiring new players. So the Bronx will see more of the likes of Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez over the next two seasons.
Scott Hairston could be the right-handed side of a platoon in right field. But even he might cost more than the Yankees want to pay. Sherman reports that the New York Mets feel he will get a two-year deal worth $8 to $10 million. That might compel the Yankees to go after Jonny Gomes or Melky Cabrera.
But what about the left side in that mix, who figures to play much more against right-handed pitching? Ibanez could return to be that bat. However, ESPN.com's Jason Churchill raises another possibility for that role.
Could Grady Sizemore be the Yankees' left-handed bat in right field? The 30-year-old outfielder didn't play at all this season after the Cleveland Indians signed him to a one-year, $5 million contract last November.
Sizemore required back surgery in March that was expected to keep him out for eight to 12 weeks. But while working his way back, he developed a knee injury in August. By that point in the season, the Indians decided to just shut Sizemore down for the rest of the year.
In his previous two seasons, Sizemore played a combined 104 games. He hit .220 during that span with a .633 OPS, 10 home runs and 45 RBI. That's obviously far below the player who averaged 25 home runs and 80 RBI in his prime and was one of the best center fielders in MLB.
However, Sizemore did hit 10 homers with 32 RBI in 71 games during the 2011 season, which was encouraging enough for the Tribe to sign him to that one-year deal. If healthy, he still appears capable of matching his average production. But that "if" is a huge one with Sizemore.
With the Yankees looking for a platoon outfielder, Sizemore wouldn't be expected to play a full season. It might be a good way for him to work his way back to full health, show he can still be productive and then try free agency after the 2013 season.
Ibanez looks like a better option, coming off a year in which he hit 19 home runs with 62 RBI and was a postseason hero with three clutch homers. But could he get a raise over his $1.1 million contract or be offered more playing time with another team as a result?
Sizemore is worth taking a chance on, but only under a minor league contract with a chance to make the major league team in spring training. According to The Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes, that's the most he would get from the Indians next year.
So why would the Yankees be any different? Even if Cashman and Steinbrenner want to save money, they have to bring in players who can be trusted to play through a full season (barring an unexpected injury, of course).
Sizemore would be a depth signing at best—low risk and high reward. The Yanks would have to bring in at least one other outfielder, whether it's Ibanez or someone like Juan Pierre. And if Sizemore comes anywhere near his former production, then the team will have the sort of roster problem that manager Joe Girardi would love to deal with.
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