So as you’ve probably heard by now, it was announced today that Grady Sizemore suffered a lower back strain about two weeks ago. There’s no projection on his return to baseball activities, but he’s shut down for the moment. It sounds as if he will not be ready for Opening Day, as he won’t have time to get in shape and break camp with the Tribe.
I figured I’d look at some positives and negatives to this situation, especially since this isn’t something that was entirely unexpected.
First the negatives:
- The Indians had a chance to just let Sizemore walk in the off-season when they declined his $9 million option. Now this is $5 million that may likely be wasted; perhaps it could have been used to entice another player to Cleveland.
- The Tribe really hoped that Sizemore (and Travis Hafner) would both be healthy and contribute to the offense. Sizemore seemed to recover from his knee procedures and it sounded almost as if he would be ready to go this season. Maybe he wouldn’t be back to his pre-injury numbers, but a healthy Sizemore would still probably produce.
- By the time Sizemore comes back from the injury, he’s going to be lagging behind other players.
- The $5 million plus incentives was a discount over Sizemore’s option. It was a risk, but it seemed like a risk they were willing to take. In fact, several other teams were willing to pay him more than $5 million on a one-year deal.
- Sometimes injuries like this open the door for a younger player, or perhaps one of the outfielders in camp on a minor league deal. We’ve pondered who will make the roster and who will draw the short straw; this gives someone the chance to step forward and claim that spot.
- At least now nobody will be counting on Sizemore’s health and contributions. To be fair, maybe nobody was really counting on him contributing this year in the first place. Maybe people will stop with the whole, “When Sizemore comes back…” routine.
The Indians were left with a choice this off-season on whether or not to pick up the options on Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez Heredia and Grady Sizemore. The chose to pick up Carmona/Hernandez’s option, and decline Sizemore’s only to sign him for less money. As much as I’d like to take the “hindsight is 20/20 approach” I stand behind both decisions. I agreed with them at the time, it would be unfair to say that I disagreed with them now. I never anticipated that Carmona/Hernandez would go through all of these identity and legal issues; to me it seemed reasonable to sign a durable innings-eater (albeit an unpredictable one). With Sizemore, it seemed like a good gamble. Even if he wasn’t back to his pre-2009 form, if healthy, he still could provide a spark in the lineup.
In many ways, I’m glad that something like this happened now, rather than when the season started. There’s plenty of time for another outfielder to win the spot, and it likely gives Michael Brantley the opportunity to play center field. (A position he has said he prefers). While this is obviously disappointing, it’s not unexpected. As long as the Indians don’t hit a streak of incredibly bad luck with other players succumbing to injury, I think they can minimize the impact of Sizemore missing at least the first few weeks of the season.