I crowd-sourced this question on twitter the other night, but decided it was probably worth a full post if for no other reason than the reactions were as passionate as they were diverse. These sorts of
Pretend for a second that you’re the GM of the Indians. You’ve got a pretty interesting decision coming up this offseason regarding Grady Sizemore and his impending $9 million club option. You know a few things:
- When Grady Sizemore is healthy—ala 2005 to 2007—he’s clearly worth much more than $9 million. In this respect, picking up the option makes a small degree of sense. It’s a short-term bet that he’ll be healthy.
- You also know that Grady hasn’t been healthy for almost four years now.
- Furthermore, it’s pretty unlikely Grady’s going to get a one-year, $9 million deal on the free agent market if you were to turn down the option.
- Finally, you know that your budget is limited: whatever money you choose to spend in one place will necessarily not be available to spend somewhere else.
All that said, I asked my followers a question. If you had your choice, which of the following courses of action would you choose regarding Grady’s option:
(A) Decline the option and say good riddance, thanks for the memories, and bon voyage.
(B) Exercise the option and take a $9 million bet that Grady’s knees, elbow, and abdominal wall are intact and capable of producing the MVP-level season that you once expected from him.
(C) Negotiate a new deal with Grady that would keep him under club control for three additional seasons at a cost of $15 to $18 million total (AAV of $5 to $6 million, probably back-loaded).
Obviously, I’m making up the exact numbers on option (C)—we don’t know exactly how much it would cost to retain Grady were we not to pick up the option. Some immediately suggested that those numbers were way off base—that we could offer Grady a one-year deal for $2 million with an option year or two tagged on to the end of the deal. Maybe that’s true. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if, once Grady reaches free agency, that another team would be willing to give him more money/years than that. I can just see the Yankees taking a bet on his upside, cutting ties with Brett Gardner (with whom they’ve been underwhelmed), and giving the keys to Grady for $6 million per year. So in my imaginary scenario, we’re erring on the high side to account for the potential competition.
What I found most interesting is that no one’s first choice was (B). Nearly everyone who bothered to respond made clear that the $9 million option just didn’t have enough upside for the club. It was all risk, and little reward: the best case scenario involved Grady returning to form, after which we’d immediately lose him to free agency the following year. The worst case scenario….well, you’ve met Travis Hafner, right?
But the remaining two options were split fairly evenly, and with what I saw to be some fairly sound reasoning. Extending Grady certainly has its appeal. For one thing, it allows us to avoid the full $9 million price tag in 2012 while still retaining his services: if you haven’t noticed, our minor leagues aren’t exactly teeming with viable outfielders ready to step into a big league lineup these days. Furthermore, by adding some length to the deal—preferably in the form of club options, but perhaps guaranteed years—would allow for the chance that Grady will have to work his way back to form. Perhaps it takes until 2013 for him to be the dynamic player he once was, and by signing him to a slightly longer deal, we maximize the likelihood that if/when he finds his old self, he does it wearing an Indians’ uniform.
But there were certainly some good reasons for cutting ties now. Believe it or not, Grady will turn 30 next year. In this post-PED era, it’s typically the case that players peak around their 27- to 28-year old seasons and slowly decline thereafter. By extending Grady, we’d be putting good money in a player who, from a purely objective standpoint, is not particularly likely ever to be as good as he once was. As I’ve argued countless times, teams like the Indians can’t rely on players over 30: they’re too old, to injury-prone and—most importantly—far too expensive for teams who have to swim in the shallow end of the payroll pool.
Beyond even those concerns, the Indians are going to have to do something about the first base void that Matt LaPorta’s suckitude has wrought. I cannot imagine the team choosing to enter another season with LaPorta as an everyday player, and (sound familiar?) without a viable alternative in the minors, we’ll be forced to find someone to take over for LaPorta.
If you shift Santana to 1B full-time (an idea that both the front office and I hate), then you slot Marson into the everyday lineup. This might be the only option if Grady sucks up too much payroll, and I would want to avoid this if possible. If, on the other hand, you cut ties with Grady, you’ve got two everyday holes to fill.
Next time, I’ll spend some time digesting what I think the 2012 payroll will be based on some arbitration guesses, contract extensions, and a few other variables, but suffice it to say, we won’t have a lot of room to add pricey free agents. So knowing what we do, what do you do with Grady?