An oft-injured veteran outfielder? Who hasn’t played a full season in four years? And was recently released into the free agent market, likely to command a reasonable discount contract considering his talent when healthy, which he has not been for quite some time?
Sounds right up the Oakland Athletics’ alley.
Considering his injury history, it’s not surprising that the Indians did not retain Sizemore. Over the past three seasons, he missed 276 games due to various maladies, the result of which is Sizemore having undergone five different surgeries. Ultimately, the Indians could not convince themselves to keep the injury-prone 29-year-old.
However, Sizemore’s medical chart seems in tiptop condition for the Oakland A’s, who have a penchant of signing players who have hobbled out of the operating room.
Last offseason, Oakland acquired outfielder David DeJesus from the Kansas City Royals. DeJesus missed 116 team games over three seasons and played in only 91 games in 2010 after having surgery on his wrist. That transaction followed a similar 2009 offseason in which the A’s traded for outfielder Coco Crisp, who had only played in 49 games that year and missed 174 games in his previous three seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Royals. At the time of the trade, Crisp was also coming off of a wrist surgery.
In terms of his health, or lack thereof, Sizemore certainly makes sense for the A’s, who likely will be in the market for an outfielder or two after the imminent departure of Crisp or DeJesus, and possibly Josh Willingham or Ryan Sweeney. Though his speed and range have waned as a result of his injuries, Sizemore still plays an all-around consistent defensive center field. Moreover, he would bring a more sizable punch to the top of the lineup, as evidenced by his .533 extra-base hit percentage (32 out of 60) in 2011.
Which outfielder should the A's focus on signing this winter?
Should Crisp and/or DeJesus (and/or Sweeney) leave, Sizemore could slide into the leadoff spot, though taking into account his decelerated speed, more likely the number two or three hole. The left-handed hitter hits to all fields and, importantly for the A's, can drive in runs. He had 32 runs batted in in 71 games last year. By comparison, Oakland starting catcher Kurt Suzuki had 44 RBI in 134 games played. Sizemore would greatly improve the A's offense.
That said, with his track record, Sizemore is a player the A’s could seriously target. Considering that A’s general manager Billy Beane is notorious for digging up players from the hospital ward and physical therapy offices, Sizemore should be on his radar. And knowing that he is rebounding from a injury-plagued few seasons, his price tag will certainly be less than the $9 million option that the Indians passed on for 2012. This is a key component to Oakland’s books, since Willingham’s impressive team-leading 29 home runs and 98 runs batted in will undoubtedly earn him a considerable pay raise from his $6 million in 2011.
The problem is that Sizemore is widely regarded as a solid ballplayer who unfortunately has been hit by the injury bug. Many teams will still covet his services this offseason. Teams that have more financial free will that the Athletics, like the Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals and even the Houston Astros. So it will be a difficult bidding war for the A’s, who have annual difficulty wooing free agents to Oakland and it’s archaic stadium and clubhouse. With a decision looming on the team’s move to San Jose, Beane has halted any talk of player personnel movement this winter.
But if and when they decide to make any trades or acquisitions, Sizemore would—should—be a candidate for their 2012 roster. After all, with Sizemore’s gimpy health, he would fit in nicely with the A’s.