With Shane Victorino set to begin a rehab assignment Saturday, the Boston Red Sox outfield is due for a shake-up. The glut of outfielders includes Daniel Nava, Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp. While Sizemore seems settled in center field, there is still debate. This is the fifth in a series of articles.
Position: Center field/Left field
- Offensive prowess: career slash line of .269/.357/.472/.829, with 141 HRs, 463 RBI and 135 steals. So far this season he’s hit .273/.327/.455/.781 with two HRs, five RBI and one SB.
- Perennial All Star and MVP vote-getter in his prime; four 20 HR/20 SB seasons, including two 30/30 seasons
- Quality outfielder (career .994 fielding percentage with only 14 errors in nine seasons); two-time Gold Glove winner (2007 & 2008).
Contract: Signed through 2014 season: one-year $750K deal, with incentives up to $6M
Minor League Options: No
The case against Sizemore:
Even the most avid baseball fans were shocked when, in late January, the Boston Red Sox signed former Cleveland Indians star Grady Sizemore. The five-tool outfielder had been out of baseball for more than two full seasons and was reportedly close to a comeback deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
After multiple surgeries (both knees, left elbow, back, hernia) and the long layoff, signing Sizemore was clearly seen as a crap shoot. He could bounce back and produce close to the levels he had previously, or be a complete bust. So, while it wasn’t a surprise that the BoSox were able to negotiate a contract that would pay him based largely on performance, it was at least curious that the team would go to the lengths it did to sign him when their center field heir apparent, Jackie Bradley Jr., was ready to assume the role.
When it became evident during spring training that Sizemore was capable of major league competition again, the Sox’ front office determined that Bradley would start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket. An injury to right field Shane Victorino reversed the move though, and Bradley has played well in Boston, even supplanting Sizemore in center field.
Even though Sizemore is on the active roster, the Red Sox continue to treat him carefully by limiting his playing time. Limited starts (projected anywhere from 110 to 130) allow for him to continue his reconditioning at a moderate pace as well as lessen the chance of re-aggravating injuries.
Looking long-term at the Sizemore situation, the Red Sox may opt to re-sign him if he remains healthy and productive throughout the season. In that case they will have a veteran outfielder who remains at increased risk of injury and/or rapidly diminished production – and who may remain on a limited playing schedule.
The team could also opt to trade him now, capitalizing on his past reputation, while he gives every indication of returning to a level of play close to pre-2011, when he was shut down by injury. Even for the proverbial “player to be named later,” the Red Sox would shed risk, solidify their outfield and potentially gain a prospect or valuable roster addition. It cost them no one, and little money, to acquire him.
If the Sox elect to keep Sizemore, hoping to catch lightening in a bottle, it would be a departure from past decisions by team brass, which typically has erred on the side of caution. With Bradley in center field and Victorino in right field again soon, the Sox can work a creative left field platoon with Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp. Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan are readily and capably available in the event of injury.
Now is the time to capitalize …with a trade.