Starting pitching was the area of emphasis for the Royals this offseason. In addition to re-signing Jeremy Guthrie, the team also traded for Ervin Santana and then acquired Wade Davis and James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays for a package of minor league prospects, including coveted outfielder Wil Myers.
According to a report by the Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton, the Royals are essentially maxed out with an $80 million payroll for 2012, and may struggle financially in the future. Despite such limitations, they can still creatively improve their team by exploring players like Sizemore.
The 30-year-old Sizemore was once a rising star. Beginning in 2006, he had three consecutive All-Star seasons, finishing in the top-15 in AL MVP voting.
Sizemore was a five-tool player at the apex of his career. He averaged a 6.0 WAR during 2005-2008. His career numbers include a .269 batting average, 139 home runs and 134 steals in eight major league seasons.
Unfortunately, Sizemore’s career was derailed because of injuries to his back and knees. He has played in just 210 games since 2009, and missed the entire 2012 season.
The Indians called a halt to Sizemore's numerous comeback attempts last season because of continuing pain in his surgically-repaired knees. Sizemore was able to hit and throw, but whenever he tried to run, the pain stopped him.
Yahoo!Sports reported that Sizemore underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in September. Although he is not expected to be ready to play until mid-season, interest in the left-handed hitting outfielder has recently increased.
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
Now that the Royals are making a serious run at contention, they need to take a hard look at a potential golden opportunity like Sizemore.
The Royals’ starting outfield appears to be Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur and Lorenzo Cain, with Jarrod Dyson seeing a decent amount of time. Outside of the reliable Gordon, that group raises a number of questions.
According to FanGraphs.com, Francoeur had the third-worst oWAR in baseball last season.
Cain is still relatively untested at the major league level and has struggled with injuries of his own. He played in a total of 75 games last year and has missed significant time in each of the past several seasons.
Dyson can run and play defense, but isn't good for much else. It’s hard to imagine him getting a lot of playing time on a legitimate contender.
ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote in a recent Insider column that Sizemore “has become an attractive buy-very-low free agent, because everybody still remembers the athleticism, the speed, the power.”
The Royals should be intrigued by Sizemore’s potential and the way he could solidify their outfield. He has the athleticism to play all three spots, but might be better off at a corner spot because of all the injuries.
Signing Sizemore would be a low-risk, possibly high-reward move for the Royals. He wouldn't need to play every day, but if he regained even some of his former success playing on a part-time basis, he could be a very valuable pick-up. Having him arrive as the Royals hit the pennant-drive might be a catalyst in putting them over the top.
Sizemore mashes right-handed pitching, producing a .288/.376/.891 batting average/OBP/OPS split during his career. Francoeur pales in comparison against righties, posting a .257/.297/.702 split.
For the first time in years, the Royals don’t necessarily have to outbid other teams to attract players. While the Mets might be able to offer Sizemore more playing time, Kansas City has a much better roster and chance of winning.
Since Sizemore has missed so much time, it’s likely he could be signed to a minor league deal. Such a contract could fit into the Royals’ plans despite their budgetary constraints.
Winning teams can never have too much insurance. If the Royals are truly serious about contending in 2013, they should look at options like Sizemore, who could be a real difference maker.
Statistics via BaseballReference