First of all, please don’t accuse me of bashing the Dolan family. That isn’t what this post is about. They deserve some of the blame for their spending habits, but ultimately they are playing in an environment that has all sorts of factors working outside of their control as well. Over poker last night I was talking to my friends about what this team would be like if Dick Jacobs had never sold it. The payrolls might not really be that different. It is something worth thinking about. The point of all this is that the Indians and Indians fans shouldn’t really have to think twice about picking up a $9 million option on a player like Grady Sizemore in a year where the team is clearly hoping to challenge for the division.
Obviously there are caveats as Jon pointed out yesterday. There are just some things we can’t know. For example, if Indians team doctors are absolutely convinced that the Indians will not be able to get a healthy performance from Sizemore, that should supersede my argument. You and I can’t possibly know that kind of information well enough to make an educated guess. Instead, let’s try to put the $9 million in perspective.
I decided to look at the top 35 position players in baseball in terms of their WAR (Wins Above Replacement.) We can probably argue all day and night whether this is the right metric, but it is the one I decided to use. I took these top 35 players and I looked at what they made in 2011 and then what they are expected to make in 2012. That gave me an average salary in the top 35 of $5.4 million. That number didn’t seem very accurate for comparing to Grady Sizemore because it includes players who are arbitration eligible. These guys aren’t very comparable to Grady Sizemore because they aren’t available on the free agent market, so they wouldn’t really be eligible “replacements” for a guy like Sizemore without a trade of some kind.
So, I eliminated all the guys who are arbitration eligible and I divided each player’s salary by their WAR rating to give them a $ / WAR value. Guys like Jacoby Ellsbury who made $2.4 million in 2011 had a $ / WAR of $0.333. For reference, Asdrubal Cabrera’s $ / WAR was $0.546 million and Carlos Santana’s was $0.107 million per point. When you eliminate guys like that, the average salary almost doubles to $10 million. David Ortiz was pretty expensive for his production as he costs about $3.3 million per point. Only Paul Konerko was more expensive by about $40,000. The average $ / WAR among these veterans is $2.07 million which is the number I will use for Grady Sizemore.
So, the multi-million dollar question is, what kind of production will Grady Sizemore deliver? Obviously nobody knows this for sure. Still, if you and the doctors make the decision to bring him back, you will obviously think that Sizemore is going to approximate something he did in the past. At his most productive, Sizemore had a WAR of 7.3 in 2006. His Average WAR has been 3.55. If you multiply $2.07 million times Sizemore’s high of 7.3 it means that he would be worth just north of $15 million. If he scored his average of 3.55 he would be worth $7.3 million. This year when Sizemore had only 295 at-bats his WAR was 0.5 meaning his performance was only worth about $1 million.
What do all these numbers mean to me? It means that if the Indians are a true playoff contender this season and if they think there is any reason to think that Sizemore can be healthy and play for the Indians this year that they should be willing to spend the $9 million on him. This game and this team have conditioned fans into thinking like general managers with strict budgets. Sometimes I resign myself to it, but right now as I’m watching two teams in the $90 million category of payrolls compete in the World Series, I just can’t. The Indians shouldn’t choose between spending $9 million for one more year with Grady Sizemore and signing some kind of third tier free agent outfielder to add to the roster.
The Indians have Grady Sizemore under control for $9 million. Nick Swisher made $9 million dollars from the Yankees this season and he has a team option for $10.25 million. When Hoynes wrote about this, his free agent list included Coco Crisp, Fukudome, Jason Kubel, Carlos Pena, Wilson Betemit and Michael Cuddyer. The only guy I’d like from that list for sure is Cuddyer and he made $10.5 million and will surely make more next year. So what is the biggest risk? The Indians risking not being outbid on every desirable free agent or Grady Sizemore’s health in 2012?
I am not asking them to sign Prince Fielder or bid on C.C. Sabathia should he opt out of his New York deal. I am merely saying that after a year with just under $50 million in salary the Indians should be willing to do their normal increases (to a reported $70 million), and free agent signings without letting Sizemore’s one-year $9 million option be a “tough choice.” For an important year of baseball, the Indians shouldn’t be waffling over $70 million in payroll and $79 million. It is a reasonable request even considering the market and the sport.