Is Sizemore worth the risk?
Despite their reportedly limited budget, the Mets will not be completely inactive in the free agent market this offseason. Whether or not they re-sign Jose Reyes, the Mets will have needs to fill. And while it seems they don’t have the kind of money to be competitive in the Albert Pujols/Prince Fielder sweepstakes, there are bargains to be had. As with most bargains, however, caveat emptor applies.
Once such bargain is Grady Sizemore. The 2-time Gold Glove winner became a free agent after the Indians declined his $9MM option for 2012. Sizemore is beloved in Cleveland, and has been one of the game’s best all-around outfielders since his first full season in 2005. His 162 game averages are 39 2B, 25 HR, 83 RBI, 24 SB, and an .830 OPS. And, he’s only 29 years old. So why did Cleveland decline his option?
Over the past three years, he’s lost 276 games to injury, and has undergone 5 surgeries.
Sizemore, who made $7.7MM last year, played in only 71 games for the Indians. As a result, he can be had at a bargain price, and if he stays healthy, he will produce on the baseball field. Wait…that last sentence sounds familiar. Oh right, I think I read that about Moises Alou, Chris Young, Pedro Martinez, J.J. Putz, Gary Sheffield, and other recent Mets acquisitions. Do the Mets really need to take another chance on yet another broken down ballplayer?
While in past years, the chances they took were based on poor decision making, this year, they may not have a choice, given their financial situation. A healthy Sizemore could upgrade their defense in center field, or even right field, if the Mets lose faith in Lucas Duda, and fill the spot at the top of the order if Reyes leaves.
The Mets have an existing option for both of those roles: Angel Pagan. After an encouraging 2010, Pagan had a rough year all around, highlighted by mental mistakes in the field and on the bases. But despite some nagging injuries, he has given the Mets over 1,100 plate appearances over the past two seasons. He will likely win approximately $5MM in arbitration this year, should the Mets choose to grant it.
The general feeling is any current outfield prospect (i.e. Kirk Niewenhuis) in the organization will not be ready for prime time when Spring Training rolls around. And there are other free agent options, such as Cody Ross and Nate McLouth, but neither of them have the production potential of Sizemore.
If it doesn’t break the bank, it’s worth signing Sizemore – he has enough upside to justify the risk. In addition, the Mets probably won’t have to pay much more for him than they would pay Pagan. But they’d better have a backup plan in place in case the risk doesn’t result in reward.