Grady Sizemore: A Look at His 2012 Free Agency Campaign

One of the most interesting names on the list of pending 2012 MLB free-agents is 29 year-old Grady Sizemore.  For those of you unfamiliar with Sizemore's situation, he started his career as the prince of baseball.  In 2005, his first full season in the big leagues, he hit .289/.348/.484 while scoring 111 runs, driving in 81 and smashing 22 HR.  A very successful season by any standards let alone a 22 year old kid.  He followed up that "rookie" campaign with an absolutely tremendous sophomore season (technically, his rookie season came a year earlier when he played in 43 games at the end of the 2004 season).  That season, he hit .290/.375/.533 to go along with 28 HR, 22 stolen bases while leading the league with 134 runs and 53 doubles.  His 53 doubles in 2006 season ranks 29th in major league history for most doubles in a single season.  There are only six active players that have had more doubles in a single season; impressive indeed.  The next season (2007), Grady would win his first of two consecutive Gold Glove awards while swiping more bags (33) and showing more patience at the plate (101 walks).  Sizemore would manage to play one more season without health concerns - earning his first Silver Slugger award and his second Gold Glove while attaining career highs in home runs (33) and stolen bases (38) in 2008.  He would also see his consecutive games played streak end at 382 in mid-April, a sign of bad things to come for the prince of baseball.

Sizemore would play an average of 69 games per season over the next three seasons, battling serious injuries in each of those forgettable campaigns.  His injury troubles started in the spring of 2009 when he sat out of the World Baseball Classic due to a groin injury suffered in early spring.  That season started somewhat promising; Grady hit 6 home runs in the month of April including the first-ever grand slam hit at the new Yankee Stadium on April 16, 2009 but he would be forced to the end an otherwise dreadful season in early September to address elbow issues that had bothered him since spring training.  While on the shelf, the decision was also made to repair an abdominal hernia that was related to the groin injury suffered in early spring. 

Unfortunately for Sizemore, this was only the tip of the iceberg as things would get much worse in 2010.  That season, he would play only 33 games before hanging up the cleats to have season-ending microfracture knee surgery on his left knee; a surgery which would sideline Sizemore until mid-April of the following season (2011). 

In 2011, despite looking like the prince of baseball early on (hitting .378 in 11 games in April with 4 HR), Sizemore would once again find himself shelved with knee issues, this time, his right knee.  He first hit the DL in May after being injured sliding into second base.  With his team surging, Grady opted to attempt to play through the right knee pain.  He played 25 games in June and 14 games in July before reinjuring his right knee again, which forced him to miss the entire month of August.  While on the shelf, Sizemore once again opted to address an abdominal hernia with surgery.  He did manage to return and play 10 games in September but after the season, he was once again on the operating table; arthroscopic surgery on that problematic right knee.  

In case you couldn't keep up, that was five surgeries in three years on both knees, his elbow and his abdomen (twice).  

Despite those injury concerns, I truly believe that there will be plenty of teams inquiring about Grady Sizemore's services.  When healthy, he has proven to be a player with five tools; a rarity in baseball.  The health issues might diminish his ability to be a threat on the base paths and he's probably not a center fielder at this juncture of his career but for a team searching for a cheap lottery ticket and some energy, Grady Sizemore will be a name that certainly sticks out among this year's crop of free-agent talent.  

Sizemore will likely be willing to accept a one-year contract.  In fact, he might prefer it.  Depending upon the level of interest that he receives, he might decide that a one-year deal is best for him; play one year, prove that he's healthy and hit the free market again next season.  Alternatively, there might be a team that is willing to offer him an incentive laden three year deal that could convince him that longer-term security is worth more than the risk that comes along with playing under the cloud of another looming injury.  Make no mistake, if Sizemore endures one more season ending knee surgery, there will be no potential suitors.  

I would think that every American League team would be interested in Sizemore at the price he'll likely command (which I estimate to be no more than $7 million for one year).  Further, Sizemore might feel more comfortable going to a team that can offer him the luxury of days off in the field.  I truly think that this is a situation where Sizemore will be most interested in finding a situation that suits his needs.  His needs at this point are finding a place where he can play a complimentary role, perhaps a place with real grass (better on his knees) and a situation where he can be successful and prove his value.  While I don't think his options are limited to teams in the American League, I do think that there will be fewer suitors in the National League where bench players are so important (it's hard to risk a bench spot on a guy that might not be able to play every day if called upon).  

I think that all of the non-Yankee AL East teams will be in the mix for Sizemore but I think that the only teams that would be a good fit in the AL East are the Orioles and Red Sox.  I think that both of those two teams will emerge as two of the top suitors.  Both teams are pretty deep in the outfield and both teams have new GM's that might feel like making this type of splash.  

Depending on how the rest of free-agency plays out, other AL teams that I think would fit (both sides) are the Tigers and Angels.  The Tigers have a decent team and might be able to afford to take the risk with Grady; they have to be the best fit, at least on paper right now outside of Boston and Baltimore.  The Angels probably have bigger needs to fill and this certainly doesn't seem to be a move that they would make but I could see Mike Scioscia twisting the arm of GM Jerry Dipoto to go out and get a guy like Sizemore because the Angels need offensive help and this is a low-risk, high-reward move that the young GM might want to make.  

In the NL, I think that you have to look for teams with adequate corner outfielders who could also afford to upgrade.  That is, a situation where Grady is slotted to play one of the corner spots every day with the flexibility to get some regular days off, if need be.  Not a platoon but regular rest.  The Brewers, who have been linked to Sizemore, need to make a splash and will have money to spend if the Prince Fielder negotiations don't work out but they're pretty well set at the corner outfield positions so I'd rule them out.  I could see the Braves making a run at Sizemore; they were interested in Carlos Beltran at the deadline and things haven't improved much in the outfield.  Martin Prado's versatility gives the Braves some flexibility to do a lot of things.  The Rockies and Cubs could definitely be in the mix; both teams have talent to build around and needs to fill.  Also, I wouldn't rule out the Dodgers; they scored big on Manny Ramirez for a little while as a low-risk, high-return player so they could be tempted to go that route again.  An outfield that consists of three potential Silver Sluggers would be tough to ignore.

In the end, I think that he'll end up with the Orioles.  I'm probably the only person on Earth who thinks that Sizemore will end up in Baltimore but if Sizemore has a good season in the AL East, he could set himself up for a really big payday.  The Orioles are set in the outfield, sort of.  I'm not sure if there is anyone in that organization that believes they can rely on Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones in 2012.  Markakis suffered through an unbearable slump in 2012 and Reimold has been inconsistent during his short career and there is seemingly a lack of faith in his ability by the Orioles management.  Add to that the declining play of Luke Scott and you've got a situation where Sizemore could come in and start right away at any of the outfield positions and be an upgrade.  Everyone believed that the Orioles were close last year... who knows what Sizemore could do to their chances in 2012.  

My $0.02. Please, tell us what you think and thanks for reading.


  1. If he goes out and gets a new hip this off season he can market himself as the 6 million dollar man. Just kidding. I don't see hin getting too many offers this year and probably not for 7 mil a year. Maybe as high as 5. I do agree the Orioles look like a good fit for him, or maybe Kansas City.

  2. The 6 million dollar man in the MLB. Now that would be a site to see.

    It would be interesting to see him make a move to the national league.


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