Tampa Bay Rays Should Give Grady Sizemore a Comeback Shot

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IDecember 31, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Grady Sizemore #24 hits a sacrifice ground ball scoring Jason Donald #16 (not shown) of the Cleveland Indians during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field on September 5, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays are cutting and pasting together an unproven outfield for 2013. Grady Sizemore, who not too long ago was one of the elites in the game, is still available.

Tampa Bay is going to move forward into 2013 with some top pitching and an All-Star third baseman as the Rays try to get back into the postseason. As they shed the contract of B.J. Upton, the Rays outfield is filled with low-risk, low-cost and potentially high-reward players.

According to the Rays depth chart on CBSSports.com, Matthew Joyce, Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist are projected to be the starting outfield. Neither Joyce nor Jennings are star-caliber players, and the underrated Zobrist could be the starting second baseman before long. 

Fan-favorite Sam Fuld could be a backup, but he is no starter. Meanwhile, the likes of Brandon Guyer and Stephen Vogt are listed, but they went a combined 1-for-34 in their brief big league call-ups.

Of course, Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, Wil Myers, is waiting for his turn. But as of this writing, Myers has not appeared in a single big league game.

Grady Sizemore also did not play a single big league game in 2012. The one-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award center fielder has seen his once-brilliant career with the Cleveland Indians derailed by injuries.

He was named to the 2006, 2007 and 2008 All-Star teams. In 2008, Sizemore was a 30-30 player with his 33 home runs and 38 stolen bases. And in the 2007 Division Series, his .375 average and 1.211 OPS helped the Indians sink the Yankees.

He was also a regular on highlight shows with his dynamic defensive play. At his peak, Sizemore was one of the most durable players in the game, once playing in 382 straight games.

But starting in 2008, his body began to betray him.

A sprained ankle in 2008 ended his consecutive-game streak. A groin injury and elbow surgery derailed his 2009. In 2010, his season was reduced to 33 games after knee surgery.

A pair of hernia surgeries and more knee work decimated his 2011. And in 2012, he had back surgery that cost him the entire year.

His career could be over, or he could come back and be a productive player again. He would not cost the Rays a draft pick or much money.

The worst-case scenario for Tampa Bay would be that he can not be healthy enough to play.

But the best-case scenario could be Sizemore finds his swing again. He may never be "one of the greatest players of our generation," as Indians general manager Mark Shapiro once called Sizemore in Sports Illustrated.

But even playing at a fraction of that level could be a great reward for the Rays at a very affordable price.