News flash: The Cleveland Indians are in rebuilding mode. A young core group of guys – at least on the offensive side of things – that may allow this team to once again compete, albeit in three years. A part of that core is center fielder Grady Sizemore. But for how long?
When Mark Shapiro and company put up the white flag to the fans by shipping both Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee to contenders despite both players still having one year on their respective contracts, the radar then turned to the only real “star” left on the squad.
Sizemore, 27, is coming off of a season where his numbers were hampered by injury. Fresh off of the operating table, the two-time gold glove winner will look to rebound for the good of the Indians as well as himself. Yes, he is under contract until 2012, but that last year is a team option for $8.5 million with a $500,000 buyout.
When the Indians signed Sizemore to his current deal, general manager Mark Shapiro claimed that the deal was “a further demonstration of the partnership between our players and the Indians organization, and that [the Indians] are committed to building and sustaining a championship team and Grady – as one of the most talented young players in the game today – is the kind of player and person that can help lead us to that goal.”
Never one to really consider things that they have said in the past, fans should consider the realities of the situation.
Despite the apparel that Sizemore sells for the Tribe, and the fact that he is the team’s most recognizable player, a decision will have to be made on his future sooner rather than later.
If Sizemore is traded, his club option becomes a player option, inherently making his deal through 2011 as the three-time All-Star would undoubtedly opt out and test the free agent market. Not to mention, the terms of his deal claim that if he is traded, the remaining years on his contract increase by 10 percent in terms of compensation. Thus, the longer the Indians hold on to Sizemore, the less value he has in the trade market.
When Sizemore singed said contract, he claimed that he declared “I’m still going to play the game the same way. I want to be here for a long time.”
Losing, however, can change one’s tone very quick. If the Indians are in the midst of potential 100-loss season, it would not be far-fetched to assume Sizemore (or his agent) would start booking a few meetings with the front office to discuss the collective future. Given his age, Sizemore is in the prime of his career and could potentially demand quite a price in the trade market.
In 2008, Sizmore hit 33 home runs, stole 38 bases, and had an OPS of .876. A player that continually gets compared to Sizemore is Detroit’s Curtis Granderson who also displays the rare power-speed combination. The Angels have reportedly offered a deal for Granderson that centers around top infield prospect Brandon Wood. It was not long ago that Wood was one of the top prospects in the game – the Angels simply have no room for him at this level. The Yankees also think very highly of Granderson, so one could assume that they would love Sizemore – especially when you consider their penchant for current Indians. Not to mention, (like many others before him) Sizemore has already found himself in the jet-setting circles that would likely suit him better socially in New York or Los Angeles.
I fully expect the Indians to go to battle this season with Sizemore in center field. However, if the blow-it-up-and-rebuild mode continues through 2010, those No. 24 jerseys that are oh so popular in the confines of Progressive Field may be hitting a clearance rack in the not-so distant future.
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)