Tribe Can’t Count on Sizemore

Any day now, the Cleveland Indians are expected to sign free agent Grady Sizemore to a one year deal, based heavily on incentives.

It appears to be a feel good story, as Sizemore returns to the Tribe for at least one more year.

There are a variety of reasons as to why the centerfielder is returning.  Perhaps he isn’t healthy yet to show what he still can do to other teams. 

Maybe he feels bad that he couldn’t perform to the level he established over the last three seasons, and felt compelled to make it up to an organization who has treated him well over the years.

On the surface, it’s a good low-risk move by GM Chris Antonetti.  He’s taking a chance that Sizemore will return to an all-star type player, and not spending a lot of money if it doesn’t work out.

However, there are other things to consider about this move.

First of all, the Indians cannot approach this off-season counting on Sizemore, or Travis Hafner for that matter.  These two players have to be treated as a bonus if they provide any production.

The front office must continue to approach the rest of the off-season as if Sizemore is not on the roster, and that they need someone to fill in at DH for at least part of the season.

Secondly, the ballclub cannot give Sizemore the preferential treatment he received as the team’s best player from 2005-09.  That is to say, the leadoff spot is no longer his. 

He should bat further down in the order, taking advantage of the one thing he did at times last season, and that is get extra base hits.  Even with his .224 batting average last season, he still slugged at .422.

His on base percentage hasn’t been over the .350 mark, decent for a leadoff hitter, since ’08.  The rest of the order shouldn’t depend on Grady Sizemore at the top of the order.

The Tribe also could have a potential problem if Sizemore doesn’t return to his halcyon days.  How long does Manny Acta stay with the former all-star if the middle of May arrives, and he’s hitting .230 and striking out a lot?

The Indians may not be in a position to let him continue to play if he’s not producing.  The front office has signaled, with the trades for Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe, that they are in it to win it in 2012. 

They can’t have that attitude weighed down if one of their regulars isn’t hitting.

The team must see a change in Sizemore’s approach at the plate too.  Perhaps it is because of the injuries to his legs, but he has become a pull hitter who strikes out way too much.

Sizemore is too talented a player, when healthy, to settle for this type of approach.  He should be looking to take outside pitches the opposite way to get base hits. 

The terms of the agreement haven’t been announced as of yet, but it will be interesting to see if a club option is involved for 2013.

If Sizemore does show flashes of his previous form, shouldn’t the Indians get the first shot at keeping him?

Would the Tribe have been better served cutting their ties with the centerfielder?  Only time will tell, but it’s not as simple as getting back the Grady Sizemore who played here before 2009.

MW

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