A few weeks ago it seemed like a certainty that former Cleveland Indians all-star Grady Sizemore was headed to the Cincinnati Reds. It looked like a great move. After losing Shin Soo-Choo to free agency, the Reds best option in center field was Billy Hamilton, an un-proven speedster that has demonstrated poor offensive abilities in both the minors and his short time in the majors. Adding the risk/ reward of a Grady Sizemore along with the risk/reward of Billy Hamilton seemed like a solid insurance policy if either of the two were to struggle or get hurt. Unfortunately for Reds fans, there was another team that lost a premiere free agent center fielder and were going into the 2014 season with a un-proven center fielder.
The Boston Red Sox paid $800,000 to sign Sizemore to a one year contract worth up to six million in incentives. I was stunned that the Reds let Sizemore get away. The Sox had alternatives, Shane Victorino could fill in at CF if Jackie Bradley Jr. didn’t work out and Gomes and Nava could adequately man the corners. The Reds have no such back up plan. If Hamilton goes into June with a .280OBP, the Reds can’t exactly count on Jay Bruce or Ryan Ludwick stepping in to play center. I’m puzzled as to why Cincinnati wouldn’t offer more money, or even decide to pay for another year. I know what you’re thinking, Sizemore hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, but both the Red Sox and Reds would not need Sizemore to be a full time player. Bradley Jr. and Hamilton are both right handed hitters, making lefty Sizemore an excellent platoon partner. In both cases, he’s simply bridging the gap to prepare their respective young center fielders. 80 games out of Sizemore, even if he is a shadow of his former self, is still a bargain at under one million on a one year deal.
Several great players on par for hall of fame careers have had their campaigns thwarted by crippling injuries where they were never able to return to the level they once achieved. Amazingly, they did return. Bo Jackson played 23 games in 1991 and missed the entire 1992 season due to football injuries. In the public eye this is where his narrative ends. Little is said or written about Bo’s final two seasons in the big leagues. In 1993 and 1994, playing a combined 160 games with the White Sox and Angels, Jackson hit .252 with 29 HR and 88 RBI with an OPS+ of 103. On the 2014 free agent market those numbers are at least going to net a player 7-10 million dollars. Grady Sizemore is not Bo Jackson. Jackson was a hulk of a man and you could argue his injuries enabled him to retain his power, whereas Sizemore is a 5 tool speed guy that is not going to respond as successfully to a career debilitating injury. So, I give you Eric Davis one of the toolsiest players to ever swing a bat, Davis was a superstar and a sure fire hall of famer whose career was cut short at a young age by injury. Davis played a combined 60 games in 1993 and 1994 and missed the entire 1995 season. In 1996, Davis went back to Cincinnati and at the age of 34 and hit .287/.394/.523 with 26 HR and 23 Steals. Sizemore will be 31 this year. Sizemore peaked early in his career so he never had a huge free agent pay day. If he can have a strong year with Boston, he will have a great opportunity to cash in next winter, which gives him a huge incentive to stay healthy and produce. Eric Davis and Grady Sizemore were both 5 tool players with very similar statistics in their primes. Sizemore has the advantage of being 3 years younger at the start of his comeback and also playing in a much more favorable ballpark than Riverfront stadium where Davis played. As a Red Sox fan, I love this move, though Reds fans have to be shaking their heads. Perhaps the ballpark, team, and the fact that Farrell was the former Indians director of player development was enough to sway Sizemore, but I still believe the Reds should have paid a premium to split the difference. For a team with so much talent and promise despite underperforming in the post season, what else have they done this winter?