When a small-market team finds one of its highest paid players regularly on the disabled list or trotting back to the dugout after a strikeout, the team is going to struggle.
Is he healthy? No. Is his health the reason for his streaky play in the field and at the plate? Maybe. But, we may never know. Regardless of which, something needs to be done.
Small-market teams have very little room for error and the Indians are no exception. They hit the jackpot when they acquired Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips for Bartolo Colon. Sizemore was an add-on to the deal and he turned out to be, not only an elite athlete, but an excellent blend of power and speed behind a smile that put ladies in the seats.
The Tribe couldn't have asked for more in the trade. Unfortunately Phillips ended up becoming an elite player in Cincinnati, Lee would up pricing himself out of Cleveland and Sizemore blew out his knee and saw his durability (coupled with is inability to consistently hit lefties) destroy his chances at being a truly elite baseball player.
Mark Shapiro did what small-market general managers should do and he locked up young players with the potential for greatness before they hit arbitration. Sizemore was in the first wave of Shapiro's youth movement along with Travis Hafner.
The team got the raw ends of both deals because of the unlucky turns both players' health. The team has a $9 million option on Sizemore for next season, which the team will have to pick up if they keep him or risk losing him to free agency without a fight.
The team cannot chance losing any players when they are closing in on contention. They especially cannot chance losing a player who, as was seen when he first came off the DL, can be a lights-out player.
What should Cleveland do with Sizemore?
Do the Indians chance keeping a player who takes up such a large portion of their payroll and cannot stay on the field? Keeping Sizemore would not be in the Indians' best interest. And though nothing will happen as long as the Tribe stays within striking distance of the Central Division crown, the team should trade Sizemore as soon as the season ends.
Waiting for the season to end will allow for them to keep their options open in relation to winning the division and adding to Sizemore's value by getting him more at bats...especially ones that matter.
They need to find a replacement outfielder either in a trade or in free agency, one who can play solid defense and hits decently (at the least). Michael Brantley can play a solid center if they cannot find a true center fielder. At least they won't have to trot out a Travis Buck/Austin Kearns/Shelly Duncun trio.
A player like Melky Cabrera would be a great fit in Cleveland. He destroys Central Division teams and is a solid hitter against both lefties and righties. This is pure speculation of course. The team could use an inning eating starter, a long reliever and a first baseman.
Sizemore should, at the very least, be able to garner a solid young first baseman and possibly a long-term prospect (the Tribe has great luck with prospect add-ons like Sizemore and Brantley).
A team like Washington, who are not adverse to spending money (like they did on Jayson Werth last offseason). They are also looking for a center fielder and are rumored to be looking at light-hitting B.J. Upton of Tampa Bay, who may be on his way to being non-tendered this offseason because of his steadily declining batting average.
Sizemore would represent a power and potential upgrade, assuming he can get healthy. He does strike out quite a bit, but so does Upton. Sizemore would also put fans in the seats in time for the return of Stephen Strasburg and in time for the possible arrival of wonderkid Bryce Harper.
They might also have interest in Fausto Carmona if he can get his head on straight after he gets off the DL. I know it might be a bit much to hope for, but the Tribe might think about targeting first-round selection Anthony Rendon, who is blocked at third by Ryan Zimmerman and at first by Michael Morse.
Again, this is all speculation.
No matter where he goes, who he is traded with or what he garners in return, Sizemore is nearing his end with the Tribe and it is in the team's best interest to make the first move and get something of value in return.
The trade would help the team financially even if it would hurt in the seats. As long as the team keeps winning the effect the trade would have on attendance would be assuaged. If Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti can get a solid piece in return and find a solid-average replacement in free agency, they wouldn't miss a beat and would be in a better place to challenge for Cleveland's first championship in far too long.