Tribe fans, it's time to face the facts: Grady Sizemore is not a good fit for the Cleveland Indians.
By now most of my fellow Clevelanders will have stopped reading out of disgust and perhaps even accuse me of witchcraft. But the truth is, Sizemore staying with the Indians would be mutually harmful, and if Mark Shapiro can make a good deal, both parties would be better off for it.
First and foremost, Grady is overrated. Most analysts declare that now would be a terrible time to trade him because his value is relatively low after a disappointing season. And that's exactly why Sizemore is overrated--everyone seems to overlook the trends showing that this year was not an aberration.
While health problems surely soiled his statline in 2009, he probably would have hit around .248 even without injuries. His average has dropped steadily since becoming a major league regular. From 2005-08, he hit .289, .290, .277, and .268, respectively. The decline is pretty conspicuous.
Even his fielding prowess is exaggerated. There is no denying his great range and hustle, but while his glove hand is Golden, he has no arm.
He had just one assist in 92 games in 2009. By comparison, Johnny Damon, voted the worst arm in baseball by his peers in a Sports Illustrated poll, had six.
Kenny Lofton had more assists in 1998 alone than Sizemore has accumulated in his entire six-year career.
Secondly, the Indians don't use him very well. As his career has gone on, Sizemore's numbers have begun to look more like Carlos Pena's than Lofton's.
Apparently the Indians have yet to realize it, because no team would ever put Pena in the leadoff spot, even if he had Sizemore's speed. Grady's numbers fit the profile of a middle-of-the-order guy much better than that of a leadoff man.
Finally, the Indians have a plethora of young outfielders who are chomping at the bit for playing time. Shin-Soo Choo has a stranglehold on right field, and Sizemore is entrenched in center.
That means Matt LaPorta, Jordan Brown, Trevor Crowe, Michael Brantley, and Chris Jimenez either have to share time or learn new positions—not an easy way for prospects to get acclimated to the big leagues.
Sizemore's departure would certainly hurt the Indians' offense, there's no denying that. But the Indians have a pretty strong lineup already, and that will only get better as their young stars gain experience. The Indians' only problem area offensively is consistency; Sizemore's .248 average didn't help in that respect.
There is a better way to allocate Sizemore's talent. The outfield is crowded, and while the infield is less inspiring, the Indians have enough decent options that they can cover all the spots without having to use the abysmal Jhonny Peralta.
That leaves pitching. Jake Westbrook missed the entire 2009 season and has never been very good even when healthy. The mediocre Aaron Laffey had the best ERA of any Indians starter this year. Justin Masterson has potential, but so far has been just so-so. David Huff isn't particularly inspiring, and Jeremy Sowers has failed to show fans why he was once considered a top prospect. And then there's Fausto Carmona.
The situation is not that bad; most of them would make serviceable third, fourth, or fifth starters. The problem is that the Indians have no ace. The closest thing the rotation has to a leader is Westbrook, and I for one would not happily hand him the ball before a big game.
What team, then, is in need of a big bat and could give up a star pitcher in exchange?
If Brian Sabean is reading this, I assume he is salivating.
The San Francisco Giants have one of the best rotations in baseball. Their pitching was so good (3.55 ERA, second-best in baseball) that the team emerged as a legitimate playoff contender this year despite an anemic offense that averaged just 4.06 runs per game. The Giants' had an ML-worst OPS of .699—equivalent to a lineup made up of nothing but Ramon Hernandezes.
Nothing would help the Giants more than to add a hitter of Grady's caliber. Imagine the RBI opportunities Pablo Sandoval would have with Sizemore setting him up!
The best part is, the Giants can trade away an All-Star-caliber pitcher without losing their ace.
A once-highly regarded prospect who had success in his first three full seasons, Matt Cain broke out in 2009, going 14-8 with 171 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA.
Cain, who just celebrated his 25th birthday, is already one of the best pitchers in the game. He is exactly the kind of player who can give Tribe fans hope in 2010 and lead Cleveland to postseason glory in the years beyond.
The beauty lies in the deal's simplicity. Both players are relatively replaceable and each adds a new dimension to his new team.
It wouldn't have to be a straight-up deal. The Indians may want another experienced player to help man the outfield, at least part-time; perhaps they would be interested in taking back Ryan Garko. The Giants could be interested in giving fallen star Fausto Carmona the chance to revive his career in San Francisco, a la Brad Penny.
Unfortunately, this deal will never see the light of day. Sabean would have to be blown away by an offer to consider moving his young pitching star. And even if Shapiro realizes how much Grady is slipping, he wouldn't dare trade him; Tribe fans, still fuming about Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, would be enraged if the Indians got rid of their most-recognizable player, even if it paid immediate dividends.
It sure would be great if teams played to win instead of to sell tickets. But until that time comes, I guess I'll have to live with Jake Westbrook on Opening Day.