The Cleveland Indians have reported declined Grady Sizemore's option.
The Cleveland Indians plan on declining Grady Sizemore's option. In the long term, they may regret it. Sure, this hasn't been the Grady of old. In his first year back from microfracture surgery, Sizemore struggled to a .224/.285/.422 slash line and .302 wOBA in only 71 games. He's had five surgeries in the last three years.
Yet, I think the Indians should've picked up his option. It would've been a considerable risk, but life without Sizemore worries me even more. This could be a move that comes back to haunt the Indians.
Michael Brantley isn't a suitable replacement in center field.
Now I'll bet you're saying that the Indians have a more than suitable replacement in Michael Brantley for Sizemore in center field.
I'm not sure they do.
I've always wondered why someone who was allowed to be the player-to-be-named-later in the CC Sabathia trade was so good. Now, I think it's because we're overrating him.
According to Fangraphs, Brantley owns a -22.8 UZR/150 in center field. Fielding statistics are best taken in three-year spans and Brantley only has about one season's worth of time in center. Over time, do you see that getting better? I don't.
Adding in the fact that Brantley holds a .230/.294/.278 slash line and .261 wOBA against lefties and I'm not convinced he should be an everyday player, let alone an everyday center fielder.
Plus, Brantley's speed—he had a stolen base every 3.5 games in the minors—has seemed to disappear. When speed is a big part of your game and you've fallen off to a stolen base every eight games since reaching the majors, you don't have as much value as you once did.
So, it seems the in-house options come down to Brantley, Ezequiel Carrera, or taking a chance on Grady Sizemore.
I'd rather have Sizemore out of those three.
Coco Crisp will probably be out of the Indians' price range this offseason.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Coco Crisp is the only viable free agent center fielder this year. With that leverage, Crisp should be able to reel in a multi-year deal.
Now, I like Crisp, but his .264/.314/.379 slash line, .693 OPS (91 OPS+), .317 wOBA and average defense in center field don't scream "MULTI-YEAR DEAL!!!!" to me. Plus, he'll be 32 next year and could conceivably regress even further.
So, unless David DeJesus (can't hit lefties), Rick Ankiel (really?) or Angel Pagan (again, really?) excites you, there aren't really any center fielders in free agency that fit the Indians' needs.
The Indians probably don't have enough trade chips to get B.J. Upton.
Now, to be clear, I wish the Indians would trade for B.J. Upton. He'd be a sorely needed right-handed hitter that plays good defense in center (5.1 UZR/150 for his career) and hit fairly well last year (.243/.331/.429 slash line, .759 OPS (115 OPS+), 23 HR, 81 RBI, 36 SB, .337 wOBA).
Upton may not be the star that he was supposed to be, but he's averaged a 4.0 fWAR since 2007 and hasn't dropped below a 2.4 fWAR in that time span. He's consistently good to great, which is better than anything the Indians had last year.
Yet, who would the Indians trade to the Rays to get Upton? Tampa's contending, too, and would be looking for major-league help in return for Upton. Something tells me that the Rays aren't biting on Shelley Duncan, Cord Phelps and Fausto Carmona.
Upton would be a great fit for the Tribe, but I don't think it can happen. Maybe the Indians can get creative (sell high on Chris Perez?), but with how shrewd the Rays' front office has been, I don't see them being swindled. B.J. Upton will likely be traded elsewhere.
Besides Travis Hafner, the Indians aren't paying anyone that much money in 2012.
Let's do a quick runthrough of the Indians' 2012 payroll requirements:
Minimum contracts (around $500k): Carlos Santana, Matt LaPorta, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, Vinnie Pestano, Tony Sipp, Nick Hagadone, Zach Putnam, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Ezequiel Carrera.
That's 14 players being paid around $7 million. Not bad at all for a small market team.
Arbitration cases (from MLB Trade Rumors): Asdrubal Cabrera ($4.8 million), Shin-Soo Choo ($4.3 million), Justin Masterson ($3.6 million), Chris Perez ($4.2 million), Rafael Perez ($1.9 million), Joe Smith ($1.6 million), Jack Hannahan ($1.3 million).
That's another seven players earning an estimated $21.7 million. So our total is up to $28.7 million with four players to go.
Guaranteed contracts: Travis Hafner ($13 million), Ubaldo Jimenez ($4.2 million), Fausto Carmona ($7 million).
I, like everyone else, wish the Indians were not paying Hafner $13 million this year, but the Tribe doesn't have a choice. Those three players are earning $24.2 million, putting the Tribe's 2012 payroll for 24 players at $52.9 million.
Indians Prospect Insider has the 2011 Indians' payroll at $50 million, I don't buy that there isn't money available to bring Sizemore back. Even at his $9 million option, the Indians would only be at $61.9 million.
Even with paying Sizemore at an above-market value $9 million, the Indians would have room to maneuver. And considering the state of the free-agent market and in-house options in center field, it seems we should have kept Grady.
What if Grady Sizemore regains his former form elsewhere?
Call me a sap or whatever you want, but I still think Grady Sizemore can be the Grady of old. Sure, he's had a rough time over the past three years, but I think he can still be good, if not great like he used to be.
If you throw out Sizemore's hideous, ill-advised September comeback (.139/.158/.139 slash line), we see that Grady had a fairly decent season. In 61 games, he posted a .237/.304/.466 slash line, .769 OPS, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 21 2B and a .329 wOBA.
Now, if Grady can accomplish that just 10 months after microfracture surgery - an operation that has no real precedent for recovery time in baseball - what'll happen as he gets more healthy? Sure, Sizemore's had arthroscopic surgery earlier this month, but Justin Masterson had arthroscopic surgery this offseason too. No one seems really concerned about that.
I know that there's a history with Sizemore's knee that doesn't exist with Masterson's non-throwing shoulder, but arthroscopic surgeries aren't something to raise a big fuss over.
Sizemore's only 29. Matt LaPorta (who has received many "he's still young, give him time" support this offseason) and B.J. Upton will be 27 next year. Sizemore's still relatively young too and might finally be fully healthy.
It would've been a big risk and pretty expensive, but Grady Sizemore could have been a difference maker in 2012. They might still be able to re-sign him to an incentive-laden deal, but they also could lose him. Looking at the alternatives, maybe Sizemore is still the best option for the 2012 Cleveland Indians.