Over at the Chronicle, John Shea brings up the idea of signing Grady Sizemore, suggesting that “it could be worthwhile for a team to take a one-year flier on Sizemore.” Sizemore, 29, is a few years removed from being an elite player — from 2005-2008, he hit .281/.372/.496 with 115 stolen bases and quality defense in centerfield. Since then, he’s hit .234/.314/.413 with 17 stolen bases, appearing in just 210 games over a three-year span. The Indians have a tight payroll, so there’s a good chance they don’t exercise Sizemore’s $9MM club option — meaning he could very well hit the free agent market. We’ll find out in about a week or so.
As of now, the Giants’ top centerfield FA target is probably Coco Crisp; he’s a guy who makes sense for a number of reasons, all of which I’ve outlined in the past: he’s still a quality defender, he’s still a legitimate stolen-base threat, and he’s put up a pretty solid performance over the last two seasons. For these same reasons, however, he might very well be overvalued by teams (stolen bases in particular are a statistical phenomenon that tends to be overvalued). The one thing that’s easy to forget is that Crisp is not terribly durable himself, having appeared in just 260 games over the last three seasons. That, combined with the fact that he’s a few years older than Sizemore, suggests that he’s not much less of an injury liability than Grady. Note that Baseball Prospectus considers both Crisp and Sizemore to be serious risks in that respect.
There are players that constantly incur injuries, and simply can never stay healthy. Guys like Nick Johnson and Rich Harden are eternally doomed by this. It’s possible that this is the path down which Sizemore’s career is headed, but at age 29, there’s also reasonable hope that he is in fact capable of a comeback. Because of this, it would make sense for the Giants to ponder grabbing Sizemore on a one-year deal — the classic low-risk potentially-high-reward contract. He’s probably not worth a whole lot less than Crisp, but I imagine he’ll be valued quite differently this offseason. If that does turn out to be the case, San Francisco should by all means pursue Sizemore in lieu of Crisp.
Either way, the Giants will need reasonable backup plan. They can’t rely on either of them to remain healthy all year, so they could use some insurance. Justin Christian‘s obviously not the answer here, and Gary Brown isn’t, either. I’m all in favor of retaining Andres Torres (which I don’t imagine is a popular opinion). 2011 was a disappointing season for Andres, but he still provides elite defense in centerfield, as well as speed on the basepaths and the ability to draw walks. I think he ultimately would constitute a reasonable backup plan, but there are other options out there as well.
In any event, the Giants should definitely consider targeting Sizemore on a reasonably-priced one-year deal. They could capitalize on the recent injury-warped portion of his career, taking a gamble on his ability to stay healthy. This is exactly the kind of move that could pay huge dividends for the Giants (if all goes well), while keeping within payroll restrictions. More often than not, these deals don’t reap big rewards. But it’s certainly worth a shot in this case.