The New York Mets don't have a lot of money to spend this winter.
Though the team has one to two openings in its outfield, general manager Sandy Alderson hasn't chased a big-name free agent like B.J. Upton or Nick Swisher. Trading for a player like Justin Upton won't happen because the Mets are in the position of acquiring prospects, not dealing them away.
Without spending much money or giving up prospects in trade, how are the Mets supposed to get a outfielder? The best option for them might be taking a chance on a player who won't cost much—because he hasn't played since Sept. 29, 2011.
Grady Sizemore showed some promise in 2011 after recovering from microfracture surgery on his left knee. He hit 10 home runs with 32 RBI in 295 plate appearances for the Cleveland Indians, showing glimpses of the player who averaged 25 home runs and 80 RBI in his prime and was one of the best center fielders in MLB.
Optimistic about his health, the Tribe re-signed Sizemore for one year and $5 million. Three months later, he underwent back surgery and was only projected to miss eight to 12 weeks. But while he was working his way back, Sizemore developed a knee injury in August. By then, it was so late in the season that the Tribe decided to shut him down for the rest of the year.
According to The Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes, the Indians might be willing to bring Sizemore back this year on a minor league contract with the hopes of earning a major league roster spot in spring training. It's difficult to imagine another team offering anything more than that.
Enter the Mets. Meet the Mets! Step right up and greet the Mets!
According to SNY's Kevin Burkhardt, this could actually happen.
Heard the #Mets are very interested in Grady Sizemore. He's coming off microfracture surgery, but I would def take a shot w him.— Kevin Burkhardt (@KBurkhardtSNY) December 20, 2012
At this point in his career, if Sizemore is able to come back healthy, he's probably better off as a right fielder. Sizemore has only played center field in the major leagues. But according to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, he was a below-average defensive player over his last three seasons.
That works for the Mets, who will probably play Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field next season. Nieuwenhuis was called up from Triple-A Buffalo after Andres Torres suffered a calf injury on Opening Day and was impressive for the first two months of the season.
He played like an NL Rookie of the Year candidate, batting .268 with a .730 OPS, seven home runs and 25 RBI during the first half of the season. Unfortunately, Nieuwenhuis fell off the table in July, batting .105 with a .322 OPS, and was sent back down to the minors for the rest of the season.
There really aren't that many better options for the Mets. As reported by the New York Post's Mike Puma, the team has shown interest in Cody Ross. But he's seeking a three-year, $25 million contract, and Alderson doesn't want to go over two years for any free agent.
Even if the Mets did sign Ross, Sizemore is worth taking a chance on. He could compete with Nieuwenhuis and the recently acquired Collin Cowgill for the starting center-field spot. If he loses out there, he could back up Ross—who hit .256 against right-handed pitching—in right field.
This is exactly the sort of low-risk/high-reward move the Mets should be making in their current financial state.
Last January, the Mets cut their payroll by $50 million, going from $143 million in player salaries to $94 million. That didn't figure to change very much this year, though the team picked up contract options for David Wright and R.A. Dickey.
Wright was signed to a seven-year, $122 million contract extension in late November. But that didn't mean that the Mets had suddenly opened the vault again. The entire deal is actually an eight-year, $138 million package, yet calls for Wright to defer $15.5 million through 2018, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark.
The team's tight payroll situation is why Alderson was haggling with Dickey on a two-year contract extension. Though the Mets likely weren't going to contend with Dickey anyway, re-signing him seemed like something of a no-brainer. The pitching staff needed him at the top of the rotation. He was one of the team's only selling points with fans.
However, Alderson should be praised for the haul of prospects he received from the Toronto Blue Jays for Dickey. The Mets have their catcher of the future in Travis d'Arnaud and another promising prospect for their starting rotation in Noah Syndergaard.
A team building for the future needs some stopgap players to fill out the roster until its minor leaguers develop. Sizemore is the perfect sort of player for that role at this point.
Signing him isn't the only move the Mets should make. Alderson shouldn't clap his hands and declare himself done after that. An outfield of Lucas Duda, Nieuwenhuis or Sizemore and possibly Mike Baxter isn't going to draw more fans to Citi Field next year.
But some team out there is going to take a chance on Sizemore. It may not work out, but the financial risk shouldn't be significant. Why shouldn't that team be the Mets?
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