Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Sox’ acquisition of Grady Sizemore this offseason was one of the more intriguing moves not just for the Red Sox, but in all of baseball. The $1MM deal (with the potential to earn up to $6.5MM with incentives) was a low-risk deal to acquire a player that had been one of the very best in the game not too long ago. Sizemore impressed in Spring Training and completed his improbable comeback to Major League Baseball by starting in center field, and homering, on Opening Day in Baltimore. However, since the first couple weeks of the season, Sizemore’s production has slowed down considerably, begging the question of how long the Red Sox are willing to stick with a player that wasn’t really expected to be a part of their plans anyways.
First the positives. As we all know by this point, Sizemore’s upside is huge. From 2005-2008, he was an elite, five-tool player with the Cleveland Indians who slashed .281/.372/.496 with an average of 27 home runs and 28 stolen bases per season. Even in 2014, he has shown remnants of those once-prodigious tools as he has displayed some decent power (.162 isolated power), speed (two stolen bases and a triple), and plate discipline (9.2% walk rate).
However, those tools are all mediocre compared to the player Sizemore once was (though that is understandable considering his two-year absence from baseball and his plethora of surgeries). While those tools still may be above league-average, however, Sizemore has also failed in two once-significant parts of his game. The first of those parts is defense; Sizemore has played in all three outfield positions and while he hasn’t been terrible in corner outfield, he has been absolutely atrocious in center field, his former home. The second of those parts is simply hitting the baseball. In 2014, Sizemore has actually struck out at a lower rate than his career rate (18.4% versus 20.1%), but he just has not made consistent solid contact and while his .245 BABIP is quite low, he hasn’t yet shown evidence that he still has the ability to bring that BABIP up again.
All of that would make for a tough center field situation if it weren’t for the Red Sox’ depth, but that depth is actually causing some harm in this scenario. The Red Sox already have a capable center fielder in Jackie Bradley Jr., who is performing well in the early going, and the abundance of names in the Boston outfield is starting to have some casualties. Earlier this week, Daniel Nava, who slashed .303/.385/.445 last season, was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket after a slow start. All in all, it seems that the continued outfield competition is beginning to have negative repercussions with the Red Sox.
Somebody will have to go soon. Mike Carp or Daniel Nava could find themselves in another city by way of a trade, or the Red Sox could cut their ties with Sizemore. It would be great to have more time to evaluate Sizemore and determine whether or not he can resume his big league career, but with the Red Sox struggling to reach .500 at the end of April, something’s gotta give. If Sizemore’s recent performance continues, it isn’t difficult to imagine him being the one to go in the Red Sox outfield.