Filling in the Marlins Center-field VacancyBy
There’s been mixed news about whether the Indians will exercise Grady Sizemore’s $9 million club option for the 2012 season ($500,000 buyout). MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian wrote that it’s “highly unlikely” that Cleveland will pick up the option “given Sizemore’s injury woes the past three seasons.” Yet, more recently, Bastian stated that the organization plans to take its time in making the decision. Cleveland has until three days after the conclusion of the World Series to decide.*
*Here, Buster Olney outlined the pros and cons (from the Indians’ standpoint) of exercising the option.
That being said, if the Indians choose to part ways with Sizemore, he will become a free agent. Given that the Marlins may have a need for an impact, left-handed bat and a center fielder, should they pursue the former All-Star if he’s available?
Sizemore will no doubt draw interest from numerous teams because of the upside he brings. From 2006-2008, he batted .279/.380/.499 with 85 home runs and 93 steals while playing a solid center field. Over those three seasons, he led MLB outfielders in WAR.
Then, injuries happened. In early-2009, he battled a sore elbow and hit the disabled list and, in early-September, was shut down for surgery on his elbow and abdomen. He finished with a .248/.343/.445 line that year. Sizemore’s 2010 season lasted only 33 games as he battled knee issues and eventually endured microfracture surgery in early-June. He finished at .211/.271/.289 in 140 plate appearances. This year, Sizemore battled a right knee injury and sports hernia that allowed him only 257 plate appearances in 61 games, in which he batted .237/.304/.466.
Though several teams will pursue the former Expos’ farmhand (should Cleveland decline the option), he likely will not require more than a one or two-year deal. In fact, I’m more inclined to believe Sizemore will command a one-year deal in an attempt to re-establish his market value and once again hit free agency in 2013. A short-term deal for next year would present a win-win situation for both Sizemore and whichever team he signs with, as Sizemore attempts to re-establish his value and there is no long-term risk for the club.
For the Marlins, it would be a high risk, high reward move. Besides Sizemore’s injury history, it’s clear he is no longer an elite center fielder. In fact, UZR pegged him at 4.6, 1, and 5.8 runs below average over the last three seasons, respectively. Also, Sizemore has maintained a fairly clear platoon split throughout his career that has been more distinct over the last few seasons: .308 career wOBA versus LHPs, .381 versus RHPs. However, he’s been able to overcome this split when healthy and, at 29, it’s possible that he is still at the tail-end of his prime.
It’s already been mentioned here that the Marlins will have money to spend this offseason and bringing in a left-handed bat would help balance a lineup that was 11th in the NL in runs scored (a bounce-back season from Hanley Ramirez should also help). Yet, the Marlins may not need a center fielder if they decide to promote prospect Matt Dominguez to third base and play Emilio Bonifacio in center field. In this case, the Marlins would have only two left-handed batters in the lineup: Bonifacio and Logan Morrison.
Chris Coghlan, the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, is another internal, left-handed option in center field, though he’s been battling a sore knee and could instead begin 2012 in the minor leagues. He’s also arbitration-eligible and could be non-tendered.
Other free agent center fielders of interest include: Carlos Beltran (35), Coco Crisp (32), and David DeJesus (32).