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Often injured Outfielder Grady Sizemore, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, figures to be a rather intriguing free agent option available this winter. Sizemore’s once promising career has been derailed considerably, as he has been decimated by a series of injuries the past two seasons – four of which required surgery (microfracture surgery on his left knee, surgery to repair his left throwing elbow, and two sports hernia surgeries).
Though still regarded as a highly talented player, the Indians felt Sizemore, due to the injury concerns, was too big of a risk to keep aboard. They chose to decline his $9 Million team option for 2012, declaring Sizemore a free agent.
Sizemore is a prime example of a ‘low-risk, high-reward’ signing that could, if healthy, provide big dividends for an inexpensive fee. Because of his D.L. propensity, teams will be weary to sign him for large sums of guaranteed years and money. He will have a hard time being able to find a team willing to give him an annual salary in the area of the $9 Million Cleveland deprived him of. But still, it is plausible that some team will sign him and cross their fingers that he can stay healthy and perhaps convert back to being the All-Star caliber player he was prior to his susceptibility to injury. Perhaps even the Indians are that team, willing to bring him back on a cheaper terms, giving him an incentive latent type of deal. But, as the Indians are well aware, Sizemore is eligible to sign with any team in baseball willing to roll the dice on him.
A similar option to Sizemore is former Braves and Pirates Outfielder Nate McLouth, who is another injury riddled former All-Star free agent. McLouth was believed to be on the Yankees’ radar prior to the team landing Curtis Granderson in December 2009. Perhaps he’ll be on the Yanks’ radar again, only this time, for a smaller role as a fourth/reserve outfielder.
The New York Yankees figure to be one of many teams that will kick the wheels on the idea of signing Sizemore, but that is just about all the Yankees are going to do. It is hard to imagine Sizemore making sense for the Yankees. The Yankees outfield situation is in-tact with Brett Gardner, Granderson and Nick Swisher left to right. The Yankees do not have much outfield depth behind their starters and need a capable corner-outfield/designated hitter type – preferably a right-handed hitter to spell lefty hitting Granderson and Gardner. Andruw Jones fit that role last year and did a solid job (hitting .286 with 8 homers in less than 150 plate appearances). Brian Cashman has spoken publicly about the clubs interest in bringing Jones back for 2012.
If Jones isn’t retained, perhaps Yeonis Céspedes, an international free agent outfielder from Cuba, could find his way onto the Yankees roster. The talented 26-year-old (as his age is listed as) right-handed hitter is considered to be a five-tool center fielder and is said to possess an impressive power-speed combination. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus called Céspedes “arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation.” He has been scouted in recent days by several Major League teams, including the Yankees. Céspedes was Cuba’s starting center fielder in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, in which he hit .458, with a double, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 5 runs and 5 RBI in six games. Céspedes figures to be looking at a multi-year deal that could potentially match, or exceed, that of fellow Cuban baseball star Aroldis Chapman, who received a six-year contract for over $30 Million from the Cincinnati Reds two winters ago.
When it is all said and done, decisions for Cashman and the Yankees are going to come down to what makes most sense. Andruw Jones is only going to cost around $2 Million for 2012. But Jones is restricted to solely be used against left-handed pitching – which could be the reason why the Yankees go a different route this year, and pursue such talents as Sizemore, McLouth and Céspedes.