Now, Grady isn’t actually a free agent yet: the Indians have a club option for $8.5 million that they aren’t expected to exercise. But they could, making this point moot. Sizemore had knee surgery in August and though he is expected to be ready for Spring Training this will put a lot of teams off.
Why the Tigers need Grady Sizemore
First and foremost, the reason that the Tigers need Sizemore is because the Tigers do not need Grady Sizemore. Grady Sizemore is a doubly risky investment – over the past two years he has been hurt most of the time and has played badly (by his standards) when he was able to make it onto the field. If a team needs an outfielder that they can count on, then signing Sizemore is a bad plan. Fortunately, the Tigers have an abundance of mediocre outfield talent already: Delmon Young, Ryan Raburn, Andy Dirks and Brennan Boesch will all be competing for playing time in the corners while Austin Jackson monopolizes center field. If the Tigers don’t sign Grady Sizemore, they’ll be OK. If they do sign him and he spends the whole season rehabbing joints and ligaments, they’ll be OK.
But for all the depth, the Tigers outfield lacks star power and especially OBP. Though they have a variety of skills and weaknesses, none of the Tigers outfield candidates looks like much more than a 2 win (average) player. When he was healthy, Sizemore was a genuine star: a 6-8 win player. His knees may keep even a healthy Sizemore from playing the kind of defense he used to and stolen bases are probably not going to be a part of his game, but if he’s truly healthy he should still be a 5-win guy representing an improvement of 3 wins over any incumbent. He’s also a top-of-the-order left-handed bat that could help set the table for Cabrera and even (God Forbid!) replace AJax leading off.
And there’s also that ‘stick it to the Indians’ factor. I love watching Delmon Young beat the Twins. I love watching Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta beat the Indians. I would love watching Martinez, Peralta and Sizemore beat the Indians even more. That, and he wouldn’t require any compensation whatsoever: he doesn’t project as a Type-B much less a Type-A. It’s difficult to find even a league average outfielder that isn’t a Type-A, so any other attempts to upgrade production at the outfield corners would cost the Tigers in the long run.
Why the Tigers don’t need Grady Sizemore
This is pretty clear already from what I have written above: he’s a very risky investment and a guy that the team could do without. Money paid to a hobbled bench-warming Sizemore could potentially be used for other purposes (though there aren’t that many good ways to spend it this year). It’s also not impossible that he could be healthy enough to play but not healthy enough to play well, as he was for several months in Cleveland this year. If the addition of Sizemore were to induce Dombrowski to trade or dump now “superfluous” outfield pieces like Andy Dirks, the Tigers would no longer be “fine” if it turned out that he couldn’t play. My ‘perfect world’ of Ryan Raburn and Delmon Young as pure platoon righties will never come to pass – even if the team signs left-handed bats that outclass both of them.
Now, signing Grady Sizemore would not be a slam dunk obvious win for Tigers fans like the Victor Martinez signing was. It’s a calculated gamble, but the kind of calculated gamble that teams like the Yankees tend to make and teams like the Yankees tend to win on. The reason? They can afford to buy a lottery ticket and lose because they have cash to spend and a roster with depth to begin with. With the roster the Tigers have now, the money coming off the books and the paucity of quality free agents at the Tigers positions of need I think the Tigers find themselves in a Yankee-like position now – and it’s time to think like a Yankee.